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Thursday, March 26, 2009, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Orange to subsidize MacBooks alongside mobile broadband sales

Orange, the United Kingdom's top rated mobile broadband provider, is said to be wrapping up talks with Apple to offer subsidized MacBooks to customers who sign up for its 3G service.

Under the proposed terms of the deal, Orange customers who commit to a two-year contract for the over-the-air service will have the option to purchase one of the 13-inch Apple notebooks at substantial discount to the suggested manufacturers retail price.

Orange has reportedly been testing its USB dongle modems with the current line of MacBooks in anticipation of launching the promotion sometime this summer.

Mobile Today, which broke the story, said its understood that Orange has made a volume commitment, meaning it's agreed to purchase a predetermined number of systems for Apple, which it will then turn around and sell to subscribers at a subsidized cost.

The report adds that Orange officials "are hoping the laptop deal will be a stepping stone to the operator securing a distribution deal for future Apple laptops, which include built-in mobile broadband from an embedded Sim card."

A recent survey by YouGov declared Orange mobile broadband the most reliable mobile broadband service in the UK. Reasons cited for the top honor where relatively low charges for exceeding the 3GB per month bandwidth allowance, best regional coverage, and competitive pricing.

Orange currently bundles low end notebooks and netbooks with 3GB per month of its mobile broadband service in two year contract bundles that cost between $850 and $1,100 over the term of the contract, or roughly $35 to $50 per month.

Purchased by itself, Orange's 3GB tier of data service costs $21.26 per month, or $510 over the two year contract. That makes the hardware-included bundles Orange currently offers more of a financing arrangement rather than a deep hardware discount, as the Eee PC and Toshiba L300 laptops it bundles only cost $250 and $500 at retail.

However, by offering a MacBook together with a mobile broadband service bundle, Orange could sell Apple's $1299 MacBook for around $75 per month (50 pounds), a much more approachable way for many people to buy a new notebook.