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Monday, November 23, 2009, 08:10 am PT (11:10 am ET)

End of iPhone exclusivity means boosted sales in Europe

As exclusive contracts for the iPhone begin to expire throughout Europe, sales of Apple's handset have increased dramatically thanks to expansion to multiple carriers.

In the U.K., carrier Orange recently began selling the iPhone, after the exclusive contract with O2 expired. According to MarketWatch, the company sold 30,000 handsets in its first day of availability. Competing carrier Vodafone is also set to sell the iPhone in early 2010.

If the success of multiple carriers in France is any indication, both Vodafone and Orange should have high hopes for Apple's device. Earlier this year, the iPhone went multi-carrier in France after a government ruling nullified Apple's exclusive arrangement with Orange. Since then, it has been estimated that the iPhone has risen to as high as 40 percent market share of all smartphone sales in the nation.

France is now said to be the largest iPhone market for Apple in all of Europe, with 600,000 handsets estimated sold in the third quarter of the 2009 calendar year. That helped Apple sell a total of 7.4 million iPhones during the September frame, good for a 7 percent year-over-year increase.

Some analysts have even higher expectations for the iPhone in the U.K., as it has five major wireless carriers, compared to France's three. The fragmentation means that the iPhone was previously only available to about 29 percent of U.K. subscribers when it was exclusive to O2. Compare that with Orange in France, where Apple had access to about 47 percent of subscribers.

Apple's success with multi-carrier deals has led some to speculate that the Cupertino, Calif., company will not renew its agreement with AT&T in the U.S., set to expire in 2010. Recent rumors have suggested that Apple and Verizon are working towards a third-quarter debut of a CDMA-compatible iPhone next year.