O2 Gets all Uptight about Orange iPhone Sales

 PMUK Blog OW_iPhone_300dpi-2

The release of Orange’s iPhone has caused a stir in the mobile industry; with phone geeks all over the UK getting their knickers in a twist about the number of phones sold, a few slapped wrists over some porky pies and a frightening prospect on the horizon for O2 and its Daddy Telefonica. The figure in question is 30,000 phones sold on the opening day of sales, one which has been very public knowledge since shortly after the close of business on that day. It is an amazing number admittedly, but as O2 were all too keen to point out to gomonews.com, “[O2] actually sold significantly more than this in one day”. Exactly what that significant number was is apparently “sensitive information”, so I guess we’ll just have to take their word for it.

But why so shirty? Surely the nitpicking would have been better justified given a quoted and presumably monstrously-large figure with which to bat Orange about the ears. Well, the fact is that the big heads at Telephonica are very aware of the 5 million data users on UK networks, and have been (gladly) bearing the burden of a large amount of their traffic on their own O2 network. Where this has left O2 is announcing that they have remained the biggest network in the UK after third quarter profits were released earlier this week. It’s also left them with a snail of a network, with some claiming that during peak data use times (e.g. the commute) that even old-school GPRS is sometimes faster. O2 are putting a lot of money into increasing their speeds but is it too little too late? The frightening prospect for O2 is that their devoted iPhone customers may choose to jump ship to Orange now, or even Vodafone when their own iPhone arrives in early 2010.

Whilst hopefully Orange and Vodafone have learned from O2’s catastrophic underestimation of the amount of data an average iPhone user will consume, the fact is that the more data the network can handle, the more data people are likely to use. Well, that is at least up to the wonderfully entitled unlimited* data limit. I have no complaints about the 3G speeds of Vodafone (when I can find 3G) on my own data intensive HTC Magic, but I’m praying the flood of customers Orange has received isn’t a death knell for its network’s data speeds, because maybe if Orange can weather the storm then perhaps Vodafone can too.

The fact is that just like me, most mobile phone power-users don’t really care about who the network is- if the phone generally does what it’s supposed to. The iPhone is supposed to use data and unless O2 can sort out their 3G speeds- I’m sure we’ll see many allegiances change when the choice of a number of networks is made available. Although I’m not really too sure why they’d be worrying when everyone’s signed up to eternal contracts.

Charles Thompson


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