Orange takes FMC to 3G

James Middleton

September 12, 2008

2 Min Read
Orange takes FMC to 3G

UK mobile operator Orange this week claimed a first, with its 3G-based UMA platform for fixed mobile convergence (FMC) customers.

Orange originally launched its Unik/Unique service in 2006, and since appears to have experienced very different fortunes to those of BT, the company which first launched FMC services in Europe under the guise of Fusion and struggled to sign up customers.

Saying that, all FMC operators seem to be cagey about their numbers, and probably with good reason.

As Ovum analyst Jeremy Green notes, Orange reports around half a million customers for Unik; but the number of customers for Fusion is said to be less than a tenth of Orange’s subscriber base.

The basic premise is that FMC allows customers to use a single handset to make (cheaper) calls by seamlessly switching from fixed wifi to mobile cellular networks as they leave or enter their home or office. Now Orange is bringing together 3G and UMA technology, “in a move that will see customers experience richer content services and faster data speeds on Orange’s 3G and wifi networks more cost-effectively”.

Orange said it would launch its 3G UMA service with two exclusive handsets from Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

The first 3G UMA handset to launch will be the Samsung P270. This will be followed by the later launch of the Sony Ericsson G705u.

Orange’s 3G UMA service will initially be available in France in October followed by Poland, Spain and the UK.

Commenting on the announcement, Ovum’s Green said that Unik and Fusion have been very much voice oriented 2G services, with the emphasis on saving on call costs. “It’s hard to see just what the appeal is in a world where the mobile premium has been relentlessly declining, particularly since indoor coverage is not a burning issue in Europe as it is in North America,” he said.

But as a result of a slow standardisation process, UMA services like Unik and Fusion have been limited to slightly lacklustre devices. “So a 3G version of the UMA service has the potential to change the picture somewhat,” said Green.

Orange’s move may change this, and a genuinely seamless protocol which would allow users to connect to the internet via their home wifi network for multimedia services would improve the user experience and the quality of service, Green believes.

“3G UMA provides a more compelling service proposition than its 2G progenitor; how it stacks up against alternatives depends on, among other things, the hardware costs for the WiFi access points and femtocell base stations,” he said.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of | Follow him @telecomsjames

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