Orange is to become the first mobile phone operator to offer a fixed line service in addition to mobile services, in a scheme aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises.
Under Orange’s Landline for Business scheme, customers – who will be able to retain their existing fixed line phone numbers – will receive a single bill covering line rental and call charges. There will be a single contact point for fixed and mobile phone customer support. Billing will be by the second, with no minimum call charge.
Jason Ellis, head of convergence for Orange business, said: “We believe we are offering a simplified supply line for customers. The single point of contact means we are starting to converge customer services.”
Discounted call charges between Orange fixed line and mobile phones would contribute to call charges costing up to 20% less than with BT, he added.
The mobile operator will aim the service initially at existing and new Orange mobile customers among SMEs with up to 250 employees, but by the end of the year it plans to extend the service to companies employing up to 500 staff.
Ellis said that there were no plans yet to offer the service to larger corporate customers, because of limited access to the BT network infrastructure.
He refused to divulge what Orange’s take-up or profitability targets were but said, “The business plan we’re talking about is quite aggressive. The overall market size for this sector is £4.3bn. We want a lot of that market share – the sums for Orange are considerable.”
Ellis said the fixed and landline bundle was a step towards offering customers more converged services including broadband and VoIP. “We’ll take the traditional telephony needs of organisations and hand-hold them into the brave new world. We see this as just the beginning,” he said.
Jeremy Green, principal analyst at Ovum, said Orange's move represented a recognition that what SMEs “want, and find hard to get, is closer integration between mobile and fixed services.
“In its initial launch Orange is also claiming a 20% saving on BT tariffs for SME customers. We are less convinced by this, because customers who are driven primarily by price considerations can probably get a better deal elsewhere. The real attraction of the Orange proposition is complexity reduction and improved account management."