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By: MarkJ - 16 April, 2010 (6:46 AM)
orange uk logoIn a surprise move Orange UK (France Telecom), which is currently in the process of merging with its former rival T-Mobile UK, has effectively handed control of its fixed line broadband ISP network to BT Group. Orange hopes the move will vastly improve its woeful broadband service quality for both new and existing customers, thus ceasing the exodus of users from its ADSL based packages.

The Times reports that BT will "take over" Orange's network and integrate it into its own, which we assume refers to the operators unbundled ( LLU ) network; Orange already uses BT infrastructure to reach areas that exist outside of its 65% UK population coverage LLU footprint.

Orange’s VP of Strategy, Bruno Duarte, said:

"We are not satisfied with where we stand with broadband, as our customer base is declining and our performance is poor. But we need to remain in fixed-line broadband so decided to fundamentally change what we are doing."

Duarte blames the problems of its broadband service performance on ageing infrastructure and a lack of investment in keeping this kit up-to-date with modern requirements. The service has also suffered due to a lack of adequate promotion. It's understood that about 61 Orange UK staff will be transferred to BT as part of the agreement.

Orange now joins Kcom Kingston Communications (part of the KCOM Group) (KCOM , Karoo UK), which last year also handed over management control of its national network to BT via a similar wholesale agreement. The move places Orange in a similar position to its rival Vodafone, which offers a BT Managed broadband service to customers.

However Vodafone's service hasn't changed much in the last two years and is in desperate need of both greater publicity and a major overhaul. This just goes to show that merely handing control to BT is not enough. Orange will still need to be proactive in how it promotes and designs the service for it to be a success.

At per our 'Top 10 Broadband ISPs' page, Orange is currently the 5th largest fixed line broadband provider in the market with 840,000 customers. However that is down from 1,000,000 at the same time last year, we can even remember a time in 2007 they had closer to 1.2m. Meanwhile O2 is closing the gap, having gone from 0 to 591,514 in the space of around 2 years.
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