Orange tempts UK users with free trials

The UK subsidiary of mobile telecommunications Orange has begun offering month-long free trials to all of its business and...

The UK subsidiary of mobile telecommunications Orange has begun offering month-long free trials to all of its business and consumer customers to encourage mobile phone users to test new applications and technologies.

"Try is a new initiative which is going to change the way we offer services to all of our customers," said John Allwood, executive vice-president for Orange UK.

Orange will give all of its UK customers, both contract customers and pay-as-you-go users, a bundle with which they can use technologies and services they have not tried before.

For example, a customer who wants to try photo messaging can receive 30 free photos, while those who want to try text messaging get 30 free text messages. The free trial period lasts until the bundle runs out or when the month ends, whichever comes first.

"Customers don't want to commit to something without first seeing if the service is the experience they want," Allwood said. "If a customer likes what they try, they can keep it; if not, they can try something else instead."

The Try initiative focuses on data and messaging services, with different packages aimed at consumers and small business customers, as well as medium-sized and corporate Orange customers and prospective customers. 

The free trials may be rolled out in other countries.

"Such a programme will, most, likely entice existing users to use more data services," said Paolo Pescatore, senior analyst for IDC. "It will put Orange in good stead for the future."

Mobile penetration rates in the UK are expected to reach saturation point in 2004 with an increase in the year to 88.6%, according to a report published last year by the mobile industry group, the Wireless World Forum.

With the penetration rates of mobile phone users in the UK reaching all-time highs, mobile telecommunication companies have been quick to realise that to fatten up bottom lines, more money has to be obtained from each user.

Orange's parent company, France Télécom, said that strong demand for internet and mobile phone services has helped the company report a healthy increase in its 2003 revenue.

France Télécom reported that Orange brought in €17.9bn, almost €900m more than it reported in 2002.

Orange has spent millions of pounds on 3G licences and technologies and people have to be willing to use what the company is now beginning to offer.

According to a survey conducted by Orange, less than 10% of the UK population would buy technology as soon as it hits the market, though nine out of 10 people would be willing to try out new technology if it was offered for free.

The survey also found that 52% of the population consider themselves as cautious and are three times more averse to risk taking than 10 years ago.

Laura Rohde writes for IDG News Service

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