France Telecom-owned Orange UK is to begin selling Apple’s iPhone later this year, bringing an end to rival O2 UK’s exclusive hold over the iconic handset. In a brief statement, Orange UK said it will begin offering the iPhone 3G and and iPhone 3GS “to UK subscribers later this year” effectively ending Telefonica-owned O2’s position as the sole supplier of the device in the country. O2 UK has sold the device since the first-generation iPhone was launched in 2007 and has attracted a reported 1 million iPhone users to its network to date. “Orange… will sell iPhone in all Orange direct channels including Orange shops, the Orange webshop and Orange telesales channels, as well as selected high street partners,” Orange UK said in a statement. The operator gave no information around pricing, tariffs or availability dates, but has set up a website for prospective users to register their interest.

Orange already offers the device in many of its markets – most notably in its home market of France – and the addition of the UK means the operator now offers the iPhone in 28 countries and territories. The deal also makes the UK the latest market where the iPhone will be available from multiple operators. Apple favoured the exclusive distributor model when the device first launched but has since struck deals with many other operators in the same markets. AT&T’s deal to offer the iPhone in the US is one of the last major markets where a single operator has exclusive rights to offer the device.