MOBILE phones group Orange is launching a new initiative to target the European business customer.

Orange, which employs more than 2,500 in Darlington and 6,000 people at other operations in the region, has vowed to increase its focus on the business user in its core European markets.

To that end it has introduced a range of new services, including instant access to email, calendars, company intranets and the Internet for business people on the move.

The Data Solutions Portfolio is designed to consolidate Orange's position as the leading integrated business solutions provider in Europe.

Orange, owned by France Telecom, already has a 60 per cent share of the French business market, and hopes the new services will provide a similar coverage across its other markets, including the UK, Denmark, Belgium and Switzerland.

Orange is working with its partners Toshiba, Microsoft, Palm, Lotus, Hewlett Packard, Compaq and Ericsson to create the Orange wirefree server, which will offer instant access via a mobile phone to the Internet and other business data services.

Jean-Francois Pontal, chief executive officer of Orange, said: "This is the start of a new era for Orange. By introducing this business-focused pan-European initiative, we are not only extending the Orange brand to a new customer base, but also offering an unrivalled quality of service and innovation to European businesses.

"With the launch of our data solution portfolio, Orange is bringing businesses new ways to communicate, new ways to be productive and new ways to be in control.

"Whether your company is focused on speed, cost, performance, flexibility, or all four, Orange can provide a data solution that will benefit your business."

He added: "Mobile workers will now not only be able to make calls, but will be able to check email, send files, connect to the Internet and even view their company intranet, all on the Orange network."

Last month, Orange revealed that it had claimed leadership of the UK's mobile phone market, with 12.4 million customers. The group now has 39.3 million customers worldwide. The update came as it revealed turnover had risen by 25 per cent to £9.3bn.