O2's sees 8,000 iPhone activations on day one of 5-year UK exclusive

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O2, the wireless arm of Telefonica and exclusive iPhone provider in the UK, beat its own expectations for iPhone activations by more than twofold on Friday, the first day the Apple handset was made available for sale in Europe.

Citing a source "deep within the belly of O2," ArsTechnica reports that the British carrier saw just over 8,000 iPhone activations at the close of business on Friday, Nov. 9th.

According to the source, O2 higher-ups were expecting more like 3,000 activations, so the early activation numbers "came as a pleasant surprise" and run "contrary to many reports this [past] weekend that the launch was a flop in Europe. "

The source also revealed that, like Apple's deal with U.S. carrier AT&T Wireless, O2's exclusive contract to sell and service iPhone in the UK spans 5 years, expiring sometime in late 2012.

During O2's third-quarter conference call on Monday, mobile chief Peter Erskine said his firm, along with retail partner Carphone Warehouse, had sold "tens of thousands" of iPhones since Friday.

“It has been the fastest-selling device we have ever seen,” he said.

Erskine added that two thirds of customers buying the Apple handset were new customers to O2, though he refused to go into detail about which networks those customers were coming from.

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