The rumours were right. Sadly.
Today Orange has confirmed two pieces of widespread industry gossip: that the iPhone 3G and 3GS will hit retail on its network starting 10 November and that it has no plan to start a price war with O2.
The former is fairly self evident with users able to begin pre-orders today and Orange stores opening early at 7am on 10 November to deal with the expected rush. The network will also sell iPhones through Apple retail stores, Carphone Warehouse, Phones4U and its Orange HMV concessions. The UK deal expands Orange iPhone sales to a total of 28 countries.
Perhaps more importantly however Orange has rolled out its full array of tariffs and there is little to separate them from the O2 iPhone price plans which so infuriated users back in June. Most significant in terms of difference is the increased monthly 'unlimited' data allowance of 750MB while entry level £29.36pm 18 and 24 month contracts provide 150 minutes and 250 texts as opposed to the lousy 75 minutes and 125 texts on O2.
That said, contract prices are otherwise largely identical, give or take a few pence, with pre-pay users also seeing no significant saving on handset prices or bundled add-ons (free data and WiFi for 12 months is similarly provided). O2's monthly iPhone tariffs are provided at the bottom of this story for comparison.
Why has Orange done this? We have no definitive answer, but either a) Apple takes such a large cut it is impossible to offer the handset and tariffs for less, or b) Orange knows the O2 network reputation is so bad right now it doesn't have to compete. Either way, it's a shame.