iPhone Exclusivity Deal Ending in UK

When operator O2 got the exclusive license to sell the iPhone in Britain, it was an agreement that helped turn the UK mobile phone market on its head. The deal has helped it move into a market-leading position since the original iPhone launched, but reports hit the web recently that suggest the exclusive link-up between Apple and O2 will be over in just a matter of months.

On Monday, rival mobile operator Orange announced that it would begin selling the iPhone 3G and 3GS in the UK market before the end of the year. Consumers who have been put off by O2’s expensive and lengthy contracts are now being offered an alternative in the ever-important Christmas run-up.

If that wasn’t bad enough news for O2, now Vodafone, the very company it unseated at the top of the table, has also revealed that it will begin selling iPhone handsets in Britain this year. Both networks have yet to reveal the nature of the contracts and deals they will offer, but analysts expect a big boost in iPhone sales over the holiday season as a result. The only major network not to have picked up a license is German outfit T-Mobile.

Reports in the summer, however, suggested that T-Mobile was already selling imported and unlocked iPhones to customers who threatened to go elsewhere. The network is also expected to merge with Orange in due time, which would presumably give it access to official iPhone handsets as well.

O2 itself has managed to hold on to its license, meaning we can expect to see some more competitive contracts up for offer when Orange and Vodafone come to town. O2 said it was ‘proud to have been able to offer an exclusive iPhone deal to our 20 million customers for the last two years.’ A spokesperson told TechRadar.com that the company ‘always knew that iPhone exclusivity was for a limited period of time, but our relationship with Apple continues and will be an ongoing success.’

Of course, just what this means for the American market is now up for debate. Rumors had already been circulating that AT&T’s equally successful deal with Apple was also up for review. FCC regulations on “network neutrality” suggest that such tight-knit deals will soon be a thing of the past. If Apple is looking to expand the number of iPhone sellers in general, however, this can only be good news for the leagues of developers currently making their name on the App Store. The more customers that have access to the service, the bigger the game sales are likely to grow.

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