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Millions more consumers are signing up for mobile broadband services from Orange, it has been revealed, as the broadband provider continues to benefit from the late entry into the market of rival broadband providers such as BT.

According to a study into usage habits from the telecommunications network, the number of people taking out Orange mobile broadband subscriptions has risen by 500 per cent over the last year.

As a result of the surge in uptake, the company’s total number of customers who own either a dongle or a 3G mobile handset has risen to 3.8 million. An even more marked rise was detected by Orange for data usage by dongle customers, which has grown by 4,125 per cent in twelve months.

Paul Jevons, director of products, portals and services at Orange, said the findings were clear evidence that the “mobile data era has truly arrived” and claimed that the upward trend in usage will be greater still in months to come. This will be driven in part, he forecasts, by the arrival of new broadband-embedded laptops.

Orange’s continued strong performance is likely to have been driven in part by the recent launch of a new, more advanced dongle, the E160e. Meanwhile, an April promotion which saw mobile USB sticks given away free would also have driven sales. The limited-period cheap broadband incentive offered a dongle free of charge when customers signed up for an 18-month contract online.

However, perhaps the most significant factor behind Orange’s advance is that competition in the mobile broadband market has yet to reach the same levels of the more mature home broadband sector. Until recently the UK’s largest broadband supplier BT had not entered the market, while a mobile broadband product from Sky or TalkTalk has yet to appear. This has left Vodafone, 3, T-Mobile, Virgin Media and O2 with a captive market.

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