11:17 AM

Apple's iPhone Is Launched In France, Via Vietnam

Standing on the sidelines at a telecom conference in Hanoi, France Telecom's chief executive Didier Lombard said Orange has won the iPhone contract.

After the launch of Apple's iPhone was shouted to eager audiences in the U.K. and Germany in elaborate celebrations this week, the launch of the phone in France has been revealed in a whisper -- on the sidelines of a trade show in Vietnam.

As expected for months, the Orange service provider, a unit of France Telecom, has signed an exclusive agreement with Apple to market the iPhone in France.

Standing on the sidelines at a telecommunications conference in Hanoi, France Telecom's chief executive Didier Lombard said Orange has won the contract. Parisians may get a more detailed unveiling Monday at the Apple Expo in Paris.

Orange hasn't issues availability dates, but reports say the device will debut Nov. 29.

Earlier this week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in London, then traveled to Berlin to introduce the phone in Germany.

The iPhone operates on Edge data networks, which are slow, so the availability of Wi-Fi, which the phone also can use for Internet access, is important to users. France Telecom's embrace of the iPhone would seem to be a marriage made in heaven, because the service provider has more than 2,000 paid Wi-Fi hotspots in Paris alone. In addition there are several hundred more Wi-Fi hotspots -- many of them offered by the city for free. France Telecom and the city of Paris have been squabbling over the free sites.

At the iPhone's unveiling in Berlin, exclusive German provider Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile trumpeted its 8,500-plus Wi-Fi hotspots. In the U.K, Wi-Fi is needed even more as exclusive iPhone service provider O2 can cover just an estimated 30 % of the U.K. population. Apple and O2 have forged an arrangement with Wi-Fi provider the Cloud for iPhone subscribers to use its 7,500 U.K. hotspots.

Since its debut less than three months ago, Apple has sold more than one million devices in the U.S. alone.

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