MOBILE phone giant Orange has secured a deal to use rival BT’s fixed-line network as it seeks to up its game in the high speed broadband market.
The group - Britain’s largest mobile phone provider after a recent merger with T-Mobile in the UK - is abandoning its own network to use BT’s in a move that will almost double its broadband reach and put the group head-to-head with market leaders BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk.
Orange said customers would stand to benefit as the arrangement will allow it to concentrate on its product offering and customer service.
Households are also likely to see more competition on prices as the major players fight for customers in a hotly contested market.
An Orange spokesman said: "Whilst we have made massive improvements to our network over the past two years, with our new leadership position in the UK market, we don’t just want to provide a good customer experience - we want it to be exceptional."
They added that the BT deal will allow it to maintain and improve its network performance and "take advantage of future technology developments", such as home and TV entertainment services, and to expand its fixed broadband service for business customers.
Orange is said to have spent hundreds of millions of pounds installing its own equipment in local exchanges in recent years, but is thought to have faced further significant investment to get the network up to scratch.
Its broadband network is currently believed to cover around 65% of the UK population.
BT will take on the group’s infrastructure and integrate it into its own network as part of the agreement, while 61 Orange staff will also reportedly transfer over to BT.
Orange has nearly 30 million mobile phone customers in the UK after joining forces with T-Mobile, but has slipped behind in broadband with around 840,000 customers.
The group is understood to have had its broadband operations in the UK under review for the past 10 months in light of the declining customer base.
Its deal with BT follows similar moves by other players, such as Hull-based telecoms group Kingston Communications, as they look to reduce the cost of maintaining networks.
Telecoms watchdog Ofcom recently unveiled proposals encouraging the use of BT’s network by other providers to accelerate the roll-out of super-fast broadband across Britain.
Ofcom said that as well as offering rivals access to its new fibre lines via BT Wholesale, it also wants the group to open up its physical infrastructure of telegraph poles and ducts to increase competition and availability.