Orange, the British mobile-phone network 49 per cent owned by Hutchison Whampoa, yesterday reported its first operating profit since being launched four years ago. The group said pre-tax losses for the first six months of the year narrowed 33 per cent to GBP49.1 million (about HK$619.72 million), as turnover soared 25 per cent to GBP534.4 million, and revenue jumped 44 per cent to GBP317.1 million. The group - Britain's youngest mobile-phone service - said operating profits reached GBP2.2 million, up sharply from a GBP39.9 million loss in the same period last year. It said its customer base rose 21 per cent to 1.45 million by the end of June and had seen a further 69,000 subscribers sign up last month. Its market share in the four-player British market had risen 14 per cent to 15.1 per cent, capturing 24 per cent of new subscribers in the first half. Managing director Hans Snook said the group's long-term aim was to challenge the dominance of the fixed-line network. 'Mobile phones already offer features beyond the conventional fixed-line service,' Mr Snook said. It claims to have the largest digital network in Britain, with 4,000 core base stations and on target to achieve 6,000 next year. The group has also successfully acquired licences to operate in Belgium, Switzerland and Austria, and is concentrating on developing its roaming facility, which allows subscribers to use their phone on other networks in other countries. 'At the end of June, Orange customers could roam abroad on 102 networks in 69 countries. By this year end it will be 160 networks in 85 countries and our standard international tariffs remain on average 20 per cent below BTs [British Telecom] normal rates and up to 80 per cent below our mobile competitors,' Mr Snook said. The group derives only 1 per cent of its revenue from roaming, as opposed to Vodafone, one of its key rivals in Britain, which sees about 22 per cent of revenues from roaming. 'Coverage and call quality are fundamental for a wire-free future and will deliver greater customer satisfaction, penetration and use of mobile phones, displacing fixed-line reliance,' the company said.