Mobile network Orange, recently acquired by France Telecom for £31 billion, has unveiled plans to become a virtual bank – part of an overall £500 million investment in online ventures branded Orange World.

According to high profile chief executive Hans Snook, the firm plans to harness its brand and billing system to the back-office technology of an established financial services firm, to launch Orange Bank. Other products on the drawing board are Orange Travel, Orange Health, Orange Home, Orange Car, Orange Entertainment and Orange Mall. All will be enabled via the network’s recent £4.1 billion purchase of a third-generation UK mobile phone licence.

The company has invested £95m in voice-recognition technology with the purchase of its developer, Wildfire. It has also taken a 25% holding in online news formatting company NewsTakes. The two deals follow hard on the heels of Orange’s £95m acquisition of online news service Ananova, which features a female cyber-newsreader.

Orange also intends to create a £300 million "cyber investment fund" to help to develop mobile Internet technologies. It will build related research centres in London, Massachusetts and California, dubbed – with an eye on instant soundbites – imaginariums.

News source: The Times (London)