Summary:

O2′s exclusive iPhone distribution deal in the UK will come to an end later this year when Orange becomes the second UK operator to sell App…

Apple iPhone 3G S

O2′s exclusive iPhone distribution deal in the UK will come to an end later this year when Orange becomes the second UK operator to sell Apple’s smartphone. No date or price has been set so far but Orange confirms in a release that it will begin selling the smartphone this year, ending two years of exclusivity for Telefonica-owned O2.

In a fit of de-ja vu identical to O2′s previous 3G and 3GS announcements, Orange, too, has opened a site for people to register their interest.

It’s a boost for Orange as it moves to merge with T-Mobile UK to create the UK’s biggest mobile operator. Reports had linked Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile UK to a bid for the iPhone when O2′s exclusivity runs out; depending on to what extent the two telcos are allowed to merge, perhaps now it won’t need its own deal.

Orange now sells iPhone in 28 countries and territories; the company itself lost the exclusive rights to sell the iPhone in France last year after an anti-trust ruling.

It was perhaps telling that O2 made no mention of the iPhone is its Q109 earnings report. Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) Europe CEO Matthew Key was still optimistic about keeping it though: he told analysts Telefonica has exclusive iPhone contracts in UK, Spain and Ireland and referring to the relationship with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) said: “They

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