updated 01:05 pm EST, Tue November 3, 2009
Unofficial end occurred months earlier
America's Apple and Orange, a division of France Telecom, have formally dropped an arrangement for exclusive French iPhone sales, says Dow Jones. France was in 2007 one of the first markets to receive the iPhone, and as in other countries at the time, negotiations left only one carrier in control of sales; unlocked phones were still available only through Orange, and at a high premium. Orange rivals SFR and Bouygues Telecom eventually complained to the country's competition regulator, which issued first preliminary then final rulings against exclusivity.
Bouygues has in fact been selling iPhones since April 29th, despite the nominal persistence of Apple and Orange's five-year contract. In its rulings the French government argued that iPhone exclusivity would hurt competition, particularly because Orange already had a dominant marketshare. Apple has itself been moving away from exclusive arrangements in a bid to increase iPhone sales, negotiating deals in the UK, Canada and many other regions.