Orange, Cingular team on trans-Atlantic corporate cellular service

IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Two big mobile phone operators, one in the U.S., the other in Europe, are teaming to offer tailored services to multinational companies operating on both sides of the Atlantic.

Orange SA has agreed to join Cingular Wireless LLC's Worldview program, which provides multinationals with a one-stop sales contact, a Web-based portal to monitor key usage and billing data, and a volume discount scheme, the French operator announced Tuesday.

"The key goal is to provide consolidated mobile services to a specific segment, which, in this case, is the multinational company," Fabien Gustaffson, director of multinational company business development at Orange, said in a telephone interview.

The move to coordinate sales to provide a single response to tenders from multinational companies "is clearly what users want," wrote Jeremy Green, a wireless analyst with Ovum Ltd., in a comment on the service.

Perhaps the most attractive component of the three-part service is the volume discount. With Orange on board, multinationals on the Cingular Digital Advantage discount scheme can now include their usage on Orange's European network, with operations in 17 countries, to receive a larger discount.

"Companies that have been receiving, say, a 10 percent volume discount for their U.S. mobile communication usage can now add, for instance, another 5 percent for their usage on Orange's networks," said Derek Austin, marketing director for multinational customers at Orange. "For some companies, that can result in some significant savings."

The one shortcoming: the discount scheme currently benefits only Cingular customers on its CDA plan, and not Orange's multinational customers that spend money on mobile phone services in the U.S.

"This is the first stage of this partnership, which will evolve," Austin said. "We'll be looking at this discount program moving forward."

Indeed, the decision to join Worldview could be the beginning of a partnership that might lead to many other new services, said Gustaffson.

"Both of our networks are based on GSM technology," Gustaffson said. "So I certainly see some other opportunities where we can partner in the future."

Asked if joint procurement could be one of them, Gustaffson said it was not part of the current agreement but something that could be considered.

Whether a move to drop roaming fees between the two mobile operators could also become an option is unclear. "Roaming is a valuable service and it has a price," Gustaffson said. "Cingular and Orange have roaming agreements today. What we do in the future is something else."

Orange's agreement with Cingular in the U.S. will run parallel to the French company's FreeMove program, which is also targeted at multinational companies. The FreeMove operators include Spain's Telef

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