O2's exclusive contract with Apple for the iPhone is coming to an end in a little over a week, with Orange set to be the second provider available from November 10th. Vodafone will be joining the party in 'early 2010', so it's no surprise that punters are rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of an imminent price war.

However, a first look at the tariffs revealed by Orange doesn't suggest a shake-up particularly soon. In fact, were you to want an iPhone 16GB S, with 600 minutes and 500 texts a month, the total cost including the handset for a 24 month contract would see a whopping 11p difference in price between the two providers. Congratulations Orange on slashing those prices.

 

Elsewhere you'll find a penny here and a penny there when it comes to comparing tariffs – take a look at O2's contracts here and Orange's offerings here – but it's clear that anybody put-off by the cost of the iPhone won't now be readying their tent to join the queue outside their nearest Orange store come November 10th.

No, it seems Orange is simply counting on the growing discontent with O2's general service in order to get people signing-up for Orange iPhones. The much-maligned O2 3G coverage shows no immediate signs of improvement despite O2's promises to the contrary, while Orange claims it has a "a 3G mobile broadband network that covers more people in the UK than any other operator".

Earlier this year Ofcom released maps showing 3G coverage offered by the rival providers. There are a number of disclaimers regarding the information, and as Ofcom itself states it's not to be taken as a given – otherwise it would seem Orange users in Wales would be best served living a few miles out to sea – but they give an indication as to why people might be tempted to try Orange if they haven't yet signed-up for the O2 iPhone. Maybe we will have to wait for Vodafone for a price war to really start in earnest...

 

O2 3G coverage: 

More after the break

 

Orange 3G coverage:

 

 

Ofcom disclaimer: These 3G coverage maps by mobile operator were prepared in January 2009. They represent the area where we have assessed the mobile operators met a minimum coverage threshold set by Ofcom (see technical notes below). The shaded areas on the maps indicate areas where customers have the possibility of making and receiving a call outside over a 3G network (but with no guarantee of being able to do so). They do not indicate areas where customers are able to access higher data rate services.