Orange France loses iPhone exclusivity; will UK follow?

The decision by the French competition watchdog to order Apple France to stop blocking sales of the iPhone to customers who want to use rival operators has riled Orange France--the existing exclusive distributor of iPhones. "This decision, which will have a major impact on the market, was taken without any in-depth examination of the situation, and will have serious consequences on manufacturers, as well as their subcontractors and software suppliers," said an infuriated Orange spokesman.

This ruling should allow Bouygues Telecom--the mobile operator that lodged the complaint claiming that a three-year contract thwarted competition--to offer the iPhone in time for the Christmas period, assuming it can obtain deliveries of the handset. With a touch of bitterness, Orange France noted it was ironic this objection was raised by the operator most behind in its deployment of a 3G network.

However, industry watchers were less troubled by this anti-competitive move believing Orange France had secured its position in the iPhone marketplace and that the hype surrounding the product was in decline.

This judgement has raised questions over other exclusivity deals in Europe for the iPhone, most notably with Telefonica O2 in the UK. While neither Apple nor O2 have commented on the French decision, France Telecom has registered its dissatisfaction with it being ordered to do differently from other European countries.

For more:
- go to Cellular News and Stuff.TV

Related articles:
Orange France slashes iPhone price
European iPhone shortage, or more hype?