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Small firms must wait for Orange mobile email

Mobile operator has developed a push email service for SMEs, but the UK is at the back of the rollout queue

Orange has today unveiled its very own mobile email service which it hopes will win over the SME market — only the UK's small businesses won't be able to get a look in until next year.

The push email system, called Orange Mail Enterprise Service, will be based on France Telecom's proprietary technology and will go on sale across Orange's European networks from this month. Poland, Spain and the UK will be the last to get the service in early 2007.

According to an Orange spokesman, the operator is only thinking of those who need email the most: "The Orange Mail solution has been developed to suit a range of diverse markets and this is a phased rollout schedule based on local markets where the need is greatest."

Rob Bamford, principal analyst, service provision and mobility at Quocirca, said he was surprised by the delay.

He told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com: "Arguably outside of the US, solutions like the BlackBerry have been most successful in the UK. I would have expected them to be a bit more even-handed."

Eight handsets will be compatible with the service, including four Orange own-brand SPV devices, two Nokia handsets and one made by Sony Ericsson.

The service is aimed at the SME market which may be flummoxed at the thought of tackling a mobile email rollout. Orange already sells mobile email products from Microsoft and RIM.

Bamford said the move from "bought in" to home-grown mobile email is in an indicator of the maturity of market.

He said: "With all of the operators there's a bit of bet-hedging going on — there's always the question of 'do you buy in or do you build?'. In the early stages, companies tend to buy in. But when a market takes off, they look at the margins they are spending on bought-in, and they think 'maybe we could keep a bit more of that for ourselves'."

According to Orange, around 10 percent of SMEs have mobile email at the moment. 3G operator 3 has already been eyeing up the market, launching its own push email for small businesses last week.