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'Unique' converged offering

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Orange today followed BT's lead in trying to flog a converged VoIP via Wi-Fi and mobile device to a so far non-plussed public.

"Unique", as the service has been dubbed, launches in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Poland with a trio of handsets: the Motorola A910, Nokia 6136, and the Samsung P200. The kit hits the streets in October.

The big idea with mixed VoIP and mobile service is to stymie an anticipated exodus of mobile punters to internet telephony with the promise of cheap and idiot-proof single bills and familiar-to-use hardware. Calls made at home via the Unique Livebox internet hub will be cheaper than those made out and about.

Critics wonder at converged VoIP and mobile's ability to provide smooth handover between Wi-Fi and GSM, thoguh Orange claims Unique will. In Germany, T-Mobile, O2 and Vodafone have sidestepped this issue by simply cutting the cost of calls made on its normal mobile network while at home.

Ovum telecoms analyst John Delaney voiced doubts about whether the technology behind Unique is ready to convince a market increasingly confused by myriad communications options.

He said: "In my view, it has the same weaknesses of the other current fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) offerings on the market or in development. These include a very limited handset choice, and lack of true seamlessness in network handover.

"So long as the inherent drawbacks of current FMC implementations remain, I believe that Orange is unlikely to be any more 'Unique' in terms of customer uptake, than in any other characteristic of its FMC service."

Pricing details for Unique have not yet been released. We assume they will continue their current "Animals" campaign, so suggestions of an appropriate beast are welcome. ®

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