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Orange to ride RCom in second coming

March 18, 2008 15:46 IST

Reliance Communications plans to launch France Telecom's Orange brand in India, under a franchisee agreement, much like the recent Tata Teleservices and UK-based Virgin Mobile deal.

For Orange, this would be a second coming as the brand was earlier operational in the country through GSM operator Hutchison-Essar (now Vodafone-Essar).

The Anil Ambani group company is in advanced talks with France Telecom for a branding, marketing and franchisee agreement. The company plans to launch the brand by the second quarter of FY09, according to sources close to the development.

Initially, the Orange may be launched on RCom's CDMA network -- spanning across 23,000 towns and 5 lakh villages in India -- and later extended to its 8 GSM circles. The Indian company has a total of 44.5 million subscribers in India.

Under the tie-up, both the companies are believed to be discussing introducing data-rich handsets to be sold exclusively under the Orange brand.

The companies are also planning to launch high-end e-mail PDA devices, apart from a range of value-added services in the Indian market.

When contacted a Reliance Communications' spokesperson refused to comment, saying the group won't comment on speculations.

According to industry analysts, RCom is looking at a tie-up with France Telecom, due to Orange brand's high recall value.

If the companies sign an agreement, then this would be second time Orange services would be available in India. The brand had exited the country in 2005, after its agreement with Hutchison-Essar ended. Hutchison-Essar had moved over to the 'Hutch' brand.

Orange is the key brand of France Telecom Group, one of the world's leading telecommunications operators with over 153 million customers in 220 countries across the globe.

Surajeet Das Gupta & Rajesh S Kurup in Mumbai