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Price war to start as Voda grabs iPhone

VODAFONE said yesterday that it has sealed a deal to sell Apple&rsquo;s iPhone in the UK, likely sparking a price war between the three biggest mobile networks.<br /><br />Vodafone, the world&rsquo;s largest mobile operator by revenue, said it will be able to sell the must-have device from early 2010, though it did not confirm an exact date. It will also sell the iPhone in Ireland.<br /><br />The news followed France Telecom&rsquo;s announcement on Monday that its Orange UK subsidiary will start selling the phone before the end of this year, breaking O2&rsquo;s exclusive two-year hold on the phone.<br /><br />&ldquo;Now that O2&rsquo;s monopoly has finally been toppled and with the iPhone now available on three different networks, we should be able to see a much more competitive market, which is only a good thing for consumers,&rdquo; said Neil McHugh of comparison site Rightmobilephone.co.uk.<br /><br />Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao recently said that the operator had been hurt in the UK by not securing the iPhone deal.<br /><br />The news of both the Vodafone and the Orange deal will come as a huge blow to O2, which has benefited from securing the exclusive rights to sell the smartphone in the UK, and currently boasts 1m subscribers.<br /><br />&ldquo;We estimate that the iPhone represents more than 100 per cent of O2 UK&rsquo;s growth, six per cent of subscribers, 14 per cent of service revenues and 13 per cent of earnings,&rdquo; said Bernstein analyst Robin Bienenstock.<br /><br />Analysts also speculated that other exclusive sales deals in Europe, such as in Spain, could also soon unwind.<br /><br />The news failed to boost Vodafone&rsquo;s share price, which lost 2.04 per cent to close at 141.5p, due to the fact that the operator will not be in a position to cash in on Christmas sales of the handset.