Orange looks for more network sharing deals, but MEA is a focus for growth

Having unveiled plans last year to merge its UK network with T-Mobile UK, France Telecom (FT) Orange is now actively searching within Europe for other network sharing opportunities.

The company, which said it expected to save more than €4 billion in network maintenance, marketing and administration by sharing networks in the UK, is thought to be under pressure to forge similar deals in Europe as revenues come under increasing stress.

A board member of FT Orange, Olaf Swantee, confirmed that the company was pressing ahead; commenting: "In 2011, I expect us to start new network share programmes outside of Spain and the UK." The FT exec added that the move towards LTE by European operators could accelerate network sharing programmes as rivals share costs for building the infrastructure.

However, unlike its major competitors Vodafone and O2, FT Orange has only agreed to infrastructure sharing deals in Spain and the UK, and has operations in only a limited number of European countries--Belgium and Austria.

Austria has four mobile operators including units of Telekom Austria, Deutsche Telekom, FT Orange and Hutchison Whampoa. Telekom Austria's CFO recently admitted that the country's market was too crowded for each operator to deploy and run their own network.

Separately, Marc Rennard, exec VP for MEA, FT Orange, said that the company planned to double its revenue by 2015 in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region and would be targeting rural areas to boost its customer base.

According to the company's latest results, FT Orange has around 55 million African customers and earned €3.5 billion in revenue from the region last year. However it has already reported 8 to 10 per cent growth in sub-Saharan Africa in the first three quarters of 2010.

'We plan to increase our customer base from 200 to 300 million by 2015', added a bullish Rennard.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this AFP article

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