Orange France sold over 250,000 Unik phones

(Adds more details, management quote, shares)

PARIS, June 15 (Reuters) - Orange FTE.PA has sold more than 250,000 dual-mode Unik Wi-Fi mobile phones since their launch in November 2006, a key product on which it has staked its future growth as an integrated fixed and mobile operator.

“This is part of our strategy to retain customers,” Jean-Noel Tronc, chief executive of Orange Mobile in France, told reporters at briefing on Friday. It is due to make an official announcement on the commercial performance of its dual-mode Unik phones on Monday.

Orange is struggling to capture and retain customers and address the growing use of high-speed Internet connections to make unlimited telephone calls around the world at no additional cost with software such as Skype.

Tronc said the operator had sold in total 257,000 Unik phones as of June 10 and seen a significant growth in take-up since March.

“We have gone from selling about 200 Unik phones a day (in France) earlier this year to about 2,000 today,” he said.

Orange’s Unik phones latch themselves automatically onto a wireless Wi-Fi network when in the vicinity of an emitting set-top box and fall back on the mobile network when outside the hotspot.

When in a Wi-Fi hotspot at home or in a public space, users in France can use the Unik mobile handset to make unlimited calls to landlines for an extra 10 euros a month.

For another 12 euros a month (22 euros in total), users can make unlimited calls to Orange mobile numbers.

Unik is also sold in Britain since the end of last year, Spain earlier this year and in Poland since last week but the operator said it was too early to give their sales details.

Orange's top rival Neuf Cegetel NEUF.PA launched a similar dual-mode service in June 2006 but its phones do not let users move seamlessly between Wi-Fi and mobile networks. Calls need to be ended when making the switch.

Shares in France Telecom, the parent of Orange, closed down 0.23 percent at 21.43 euros on Friday.

((Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt, editing by Greg Mahlich; Paris Equities,, +33 1 49 49 54 40)) Keywords: FRANCETELECOM ORANGE/

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