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Orange rings in a 3G Christmas

UK consumers will have a choice of handsets this festive season as Orange announces a choice of six for its 3G launch

Orange has announced it has signed up six phone makers for its 3G launch and confirmed users will be able to bag the high-tech handsets some time before Christmas.

Orange users in the UK and France who want to get third-generation phones will be able to pick from models from LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sanyo and SonyEricsson.

The Sanyo offering, the S750, is a first for the electronics manufacturer, representing Sanyo's debut into the European market. The handset will also be exclusive to Orange.

In total, Orange will launch six handsets, one from each of the manufacturers, although the Motorola model is still under wraps.

Orange is not the only operator hoping to fill the shelves with 3G goodies in time for the Christmas spending boom -- rival Vodafone has also announced its readying its third-generation push, with 10 handsets in the starting blocks.

While neither Orange nor Vodafone has given official details on when the official launch will go ahead, Vodafone's is expected to be ahead of Orange's.

An Orange spokesman said that the operator wasn't concerned by its second place start. "We've had 10,000 registrations of interest from customers without having even having talked about [3G]," he said.

Research firm Analysys predicts that by 2005, Western Europe will have 27 million 3G users and by 2009, 70 percent of mobile owners will be packing a 3G-enabled device.