PARIS (Reuters) - French telecoms group Orange (>> Orange) plans to launch an online banking service on Nov. 2 as it seeks to add another source of revenue to its core services.
The move highlights the heightened competition in retail financial services, with mobile telecoms network operators seeing increased smartphone ownership and reduced use of bank branches as an opportunity to compete with traditional lenders.
The company had originally scheduled the launch of Orange Bank on July 6 but then postponed, citing the need to "extend and broaden the test phase".
"The commercial launch will take place on Nov. 2," said the spokesman, confirming an earlier report by French newspaper La Tribune.
Orange Bank is to offer its customers use of an instant, secure mobile payment service as well as a free debit card. Its online app will also make it possible for users to transfer money via a text message to another Orange account.
France's largest online banks, ING Direct and SocGen's Boursorama (>> Société Générale), have some 1 million clients each. Orange Bank aims to win some 2 million customers in 10 years and break even in four to five years.
The new service was formed after the acquisition of a 65 percent stake in Groupama Banque last year.
Orange's rival Altice (>> Altice), which owns France's second biggest network operator, also has ambitions to launch an online bank, by early 2019 in the European countries where it operates, a source close the matter said in July.
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Greg Mahlich)