By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
May 16, 2008

Napoleon would be proud.

France Telecom’s wireless subsidiary Orange laid out expansion plans on Friday that will extend its iPhone market beyond France’s borders and into Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean. The news came a one-sentence press release:

“Orange today announced a new agreement with Apple to bring the iPhone to Orange customers in Austria, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland and Orange’s African markets later this year.” (link)

Orange’s African markets include — in addition to Egypt — the Ivory Coast, Jordan, Cameroon, Botswana, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal, Mauritius, and RĂ©union.

In the Caribbean, Orange services — in addition to the Dominican Republic — Martinique, French Guiana, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, but those islands were not mentioned in the release.

Also missing from the announcement was any word about Spain, the largest European country still without an iPhone carrier.

Some or all of these deals are nonexclusive. Swisscom has already announced plans to offer the iPhone in Switzerland, Vodafone will carrying it in Portugal and Egypt and America Movil has already called the Dominican Republic.

[UPDATE: According to AppleInsider, a spokesperson for France Telecom says that the carrier will be the exclusive iPhone provider in Belgium and Romania, with co-exclusive or non-exclusive deals in other countries.]

All told, France Telecom (FTE) has more than 172 million customers in five continents, two thirds of whom are Orange customers.

The real empire builder in all this, of course, is Apple’s (AAPL) Steve Jobs, who has timed each news release over the past few weeks so that his cards are laid on the table one deal at a time. It’s all part of the build-up to his June 9 keynote and the expected unveiling of a second-generation, 3G iPhone.

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