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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK

Business: The Company File

Orange unveils juicy figures

Mobile phone use has soared, boosting Orange's fortunes

Shares in mobile phone giant Orange have jumped after quarterly subscriber figures roundly beat expectations.

Britain's youngest mobile phone company also outlined plans for new high-tech ventures such as phones with Internet access.

The company said 430,000 new customers had signed up to its service in the second quarter of the year, outstripping market forecasts by 45,000.

Its announcement came as new figures showed about two million Britons bought mobile phones in the second quarter, bringing the total number in the UK to almost 17 million.

[ image: The company says the future is even brighter]
The company says the future is even brighter
One mobile telecoms analyst said: "It's fair to say mobile has gone mass market in Britain."

Orange is Britain's third biggest mobile telephone company and now has 2.9m customers.

Although it made its first profit only last year, Orange has grown rapidly and in February announced plans to create 2,000 jobs over two years as the mobile phone market grows.

Announcing the latest figures, the group forecast that half the population would own cellphones by 2001.

Bosses have promised it will be the first British cellphone group to develop integrated data, Internet and electronic commerce capability.

Net service idea

Orange said that in the fourth quarter it would launch an Internet Service Provider, provisionally called Orange World.

It also plans to start marketing a handset with Internet access, made by Finnish manufacturer Nokia at the same time and boost data speeds over its network.

Managing director Hans Snook said: "The wire-free future started with voice. We are now extending it to data, Internet and e-commerce services."

Orange says it is able to start offering third generation mobile services ahead of its three rivals partly because it has more base stations and runs its services over a higher frequency network.

Other planned services include videophones, with a commercial launch due in the first quarter of next year.

The group has also started selling a Motorola mobile phone which allows customers to use one phone in Europe, Asia and North America.

Telecoms regulator Oftel has threatened to introduce price controls over the industry to ensure the best deals for customers.

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