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France's Orange comments on iPhone sales goal, unlocking costs

France Telecom mobile arm Orange said it expects to sell nearly 100,000 of Apple Inc.'s iPhones by the end of year and has also vowed to move the unlocked version of the touch-screen handset at costs well below its German counterpart, T-Mobile.

Didier Lombard, chief executive of Orange, made the comments Tuesday during an interview with Europe 1 radio. He said his firm's sales target "is a little under 100,000" units sold between Wednesday evening — when the Apple handset will make its debut in France — and December 31st.

With just over 30 days to reach the self-imposed milestone, Orange will need to move a bit more than 3,000 iPhones per day through a combination of sales from its online and direct retail stores.

During the interview Tuesday, Lombard also said Orange would offer an unlocked iPhone in France at a price "significantly lower" than the 999 euros ($1,485) proposed by Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile in Germany, but failed to elaborate further.

French law is clear in that it requires cellphone operators to make available phones that are unlocked, and thus Orange and Apple have stated that they will comply with the mandate by offering a version of the handset to French consumers that will not be tied to Orange's network.

Less clear, however, is German law regarding the same matter. Therefore, Apple and T-Mobile launched the iPhone in the region earlier this month without plans for an unlocked version. Local T-Mobile rival Vodafone immediately challenged the terms of the German iPhone deal, winning a temporary injunction last week that has since forced sales of unlocked iPhones. However, Apple and T-Mobile set a steep price of 999 euros on that option ahead of an appeal, more than twice the cost of the standard version.

Full service plan details for Orange's 399 euro iPhone offerings will be published on Wednesday morning, though Lombard on Tuesday offered some early hints at those rates. He said that a 24-month contract would start at 49 euros a month and include two hours of communications and 50 SMS text messages.

Customers who opt for the minimum 12-month contract, however, will pay about 4.50 euros more per month for the same service.