Although co-operation will be required from all of the UK's major mobile networks if the next generation of high-speed mobile networking is to be properly implemented, a dispute has arisen over current-generation 3G coverage levels.
3 has accused Orange of misleading advertising after a recent marketing campaign claimed it was able to provide 3G coverage for 93 per cent of the population.
Until recently, 3 had been widely regarded as the operator with the most prolific 3G networking coverage and its 91% coverage claim had been a major selling point used to attract new customers.
Obviously Orange's new figures would push 3 into second place, but 3 have now cried foul play and called in the Advertising Standards Authority to provide an independent evaluation of the issue.
The problem stems from the way in which 3 believes Orange to be calculating its coverage levels. 3 stated that its own method of coverage calculation is not fraudulent and that it could use a different method employed by other industry bodies to come up with a coverage figure closer to 95 per cent.
However, this alternate method would not increase its coverage in real terms. 3 is ahead of its competitors if the raw numbers of 3G base stations are considered, with over 9000 masts compared to Orange's 7500.
Orange responded to the accusations by stating that its own figures are drawn up in opposition to recent 91 per cent coverage statistics released by 3. According to Orange, it can now provide 3G connectivity to nearly 94 per cent of the population, which places it firmly ahead of 3 if its figures and coverage calculation methods are upheld.
Industry commentators have reacted with a certain amount of scepticism to the quarrel. This story broke on the same day that Orange became only the second UK network to offer the Apple iPhone to UK customers on pay monthly contracts.
It is alleged that this dispute will cast a shadow over what should have been a celebratory day for Orange.
The iPhone is continuing to cause controversy and debate in the UK mobile market. Vodafone has announced that it will begin to offer the iPhone from next year in an attempt to regain some traction in a market that has become dominated by O2 and to a lesser extent Orange and T-Mobile.
The stagnation of the mature UK market combined with the growing demand for 3G coverage in order to support the needs of the latest generation of smartphones seems to be driving a wedge between networks at a time when some collaboration may be sorely needed.