Mobile broadband future is bright for Orange but fixed-line looks dim

ORANGE said yesterday it broke through the 17m customer barrier in its third quarter, despite haemorrhaging fixed-line broadband subscribers.<br /><br />France Telecom&rsquo;s UK operation said fixed-line broadband customers dropped by 12.2 per cent to 899,000 during the three months to September, from 1.023m last year. But mobile broadband subscriptions rose 64 per cent year-on-year to a total of 4.7m.<br /><br />Overall revenues were down 7.1 per cent to &euro;1.3bn (&pound;1.7bn) on a constant currency basis, which France Telecom said &ldquo;largely reflected the impact of regulatory measures&rdquo;. <br /><br />It added that it would pursue a programme to cut costs and to restructure its mobile telephone business Orange by 2012. Orange is carrying out due diligence on an agreed joint venture with T-Mobile, with an announcement expected in a couple of weeks.<br /><br />France Telecom said it does not expect sales for the whole group to improve in the fourth quarter and said measures aimed at easing tensions with staff after a string of suicides could cost up to &euro;1bn.<br /><br />Europe&rsquo;s third biggest telecoms operator in terms of market value has been deeply shaken by the recent suicide crisis, which forced it to freeze its restructuring in France until the end of the year and prompted a management reshuffle.<br /><br />Hit by lower consumer spending, regulatory decisions and foreign exchange impacts, the group posted a bigger-than- expected 6.4 per cent slide in third-quarter sales to &euro;12.69bn.