'Subsidy' plan for Apple's iPad

Orange and T-Mobile plan to subsidise Apple's iPad in Britain and France in an effort to tie more customers into service contracts by making the expensive gadgets seem more affordable, it was revealed yesterday.

Orange, owned by France Telecom, and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile - who have put their British operations into a joint venture - said new service options in the UK would mean "more affordable prices when purchased with a data service plan".

In France, a spokeswoman for Orange said the carrier would subsidise the iPad when it starts selling in Orange stores next month at prices starting from €279 (238). To get a discount, a customer might, for example, have to sign up for 24 months at €35 per month, she said.

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The iPad has sold more than 7.5 million since it went sale in April. Prices range from $499 (313) for the cheapest model in the United States to 699 for the most expensive version in Britain.

Apple has disrupted the way device makers do deals with telecoms operators since entering the market in 2007, picking exclusive partners to sell its iPhone and holding back the speedy price erosion that afflicts most other handsets.

The company was reported to have considered selling iPhones with its own Sim cards to bypass operators, but to have recently abandoned that plan under pressure from carriers like Vodafone who currently subsidise the iPhone.