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Orange Launches Wildfire Into Mass-Market Orbit.

LEXINGTON, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 19, 1999--

Last Friday, as millions of Britons queued to get a dose of space fantasy as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace opened in the UK, Orange (Nasdaq:ORNGY), the UK's most advanced digital mobile phone network, turned science fiction into science fact. In conjunction with the debut of the latest Star Wars saga, Orange has commercially launched the first mass-market cyber-secretary -- Wildfire.

A voice-activated personal assistant that once seemed as futuristic as a light saber, Wildfire can take messages, place calls and store contact details -- all by responding to voice commands. "She" keeps a personal list of names and numbers -- a "phonebook in the sky" -- so that all a user has to say, for example, is "Wildfire... call Jane... at work," and Wildfire will immediately make the call. Wildfire will also sort and prioritize incoming messages, allowing users to listen to messages and return calls without having to hang up or redial.

To ensure the success of this innovative service offering, Orange is undertaking a GBP10 million ($15.5 million) marketing campaign and kicking it all off with a 60-second advertisement that precedes all showings of The Phantom Menace in the UK for the next six weeks.

"When Wildfire Communications was founded, the vision for the product was that it would spread like its name - like wildfire," said Dan Hoy, president and CEO of Wildfire Communications, Inc. "With Orange's commercial launch of Wildfire, the vision of a voice-activated assistant for the masses is coming true."

Developed by US-based Wildfire Communications, Wildfire is central to Orange's vision of offering its three million subscribers a "voice portal" to Orange. The service is now available for a one-time connection fee of GBP 10 (about $15). There is no monthly fee, and subscribers pay normal Orange Answer Phone (voicemail) rates for calls to Wildfire. Outgoing calls made using Wildfire are charged at normal Service Plan rates.

"Orange believes that many services will be operated by spoken commands, and keypad entry will seem old-fashioned and cumbersome," said Bob Fuller, chief operating officer of Orange. "Wildfire is yet another step on the road to Orange's vision of a wirefree future, and is central to Orange's plans to eventually offer a single speech-activated interface, covering voice telephony, voicemail, fax and other future data services."

About Wildfire Communications

Wildfire Communications, Inc., headquartered in Lexington, Mass., is a pioneer in the field of virtual-assistant technology. The company develops and markets Wildfire(R) as an enhanced service offered by public telephone network carriers. Wildfire Communications, Inc. is located at 81 Hartwell Ave., Lexington, MA 02421. Wildfire's European headquarters is located at Regus House, 400 Thames Valley Park Drive, Reading, Berkshire RG6 1PT, United Kingdom. For more information on Wildfire Communications, visit our website at www.wildfire.com.

About Orange plc

Orange plc Group provides a broad range of communications services, its core activity being the operation of the Orange digital wirefree network in the UK and the sale and marketing of Orange products and services. In addition, the Group operates Hutchison Cellular Services Ltd, Hutchison Telecommunications (France) SA and Hutchison Telecommunications GmbH, service providers in the UK, France and Germany respectively. Hutchison Paging (UK) Ltd runs two paging networks - a national messaging network and the Pulse financial information network.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 19, 1999
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