LONDON -(Dow Jones)- France Telecom's mobile phone unit, Orange Wednesday said it has signed a deal to run the voice and data network for new advertising-funded U.K. operator Blyk, which is set to launch this summer.
Orange will manage the network infrastructure for privately owned Blyk through what is termed a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, agreement. This will allow Blyk's customers to make free mobile phone calls, send text messages and view the Internet on their handsets in return for receiving adverts on their devices.
Blyk, which claims to be the first pan-European advertising-funded mobile network, was co-founded by former Nokia President, Pekka Ala-Pietila in 2006, and has already struck advertising agreements with Buena Vista, Coca-Cola, I-play Mobile Gaming, L'Oreal Paris, StepStone and Yell.com.
Ovum analyst Carrie Pawsey said: "The initial announcement of six companies is an encouraging start. However in order for it to be a success we would expect to see more advertisers signed up prior to its planned launch in mid-2007."
Blyk is the first MVNO deal Orange has struck in the UK. Telefonica's mobile arm O2 runs a virtual network for Tesco, while Vodafone Group said last Friday that it will provide Wal-Mart Stores's UK supermarket chain Asda with an MVNO service.
"This the first MVNO deal for Orange in the U.K. and it seems that other U.K. operators are giving T-Mobile a run for its money on wholesale MVNO deals," said Pawsey.
Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile has an MVNO deal in the UK with Virgin Mobile, now part of the Virgin Media.
Blyk expects to launch the mobile phone service in the U.K. in mid-2007 and then subsequently in other European markets.
Company Web site: http://www.orange.com
-By Daniel Thomas, Dow Jones Newswires; 44-20-7842-9264; firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires"
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