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Orange sets date for 3G data debut

19 July. Stick it in your diaries

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Orange is to launch its 3G data card this month, company officials say. The card is slated for a 19 July release in Orange's shops, and will go on wider sale at the beginning of August.

Company CEO, Sanjiv Ahuja, said that it was the switch on of "the biggest integrated 2.5/3G network in the UK". The company claims 66 per cent of the population will be under its 3G net, as compared to Vodafone's 42 per cent coverage with the same technology. Both companies claim near-complete 2.5G coverage.

"We said we wouldn't launch until we were sure that the customer experience would be right," Ahuja explained. "So we haven't."

Consumers can expect a product launch later this year. Orange was being characteristically tight-lipped about the kinds of services that would be on offer, but did announced that handset deals with Sony Ericsson and LG had been done, although no more details were available.

The card is available on a variety of tariffs, ranging from a pay as you go option: where the card (a Lucent Merlin U530 data Wireless PC Modem Card) costs £255 up front, and data transfers is an additional £2.00 per MB; to a flat rate option, where the card costs £85, and data connection costs £75 per month for 1GB of data.

Orange reckons there are two main ways it trumps it competition: UK coverage, and international roaming. In the UK, its 3G network extends up as far as Aberdeen, and as far down as Cornwall. Vodafone, by contrast, has kept its focus more on the M4 corridor, London and its surrounds.

Orange willingly concedes that 3 has more 3G base stations an as such, a larger pure 3G network. However, it stresses that on its network customers should transition from 2.5 to 3G with no trouble at all, and no difficulty getting back to the 3G network when it is available.

Internationally, Orange is a member of the FreeMove alliance, so that customers can roam on to 3G networks in Spain, Italy, Germany for £8 per MB of data. This service has the benefit of being platform agnostic, the team at Orange says.

The company has also conducted extensive tests of its card, and says it is confident it will work with the majority of laptop PCs, naming IBM and Dell as two companies it had worked closely with to ensure compatibility.

Jon Allwood, senior VP at Orange, said: "We may be launching behind Vodafone, but we are in better shape." ®

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