Vodafone has officially opened the floodgates and announced it will start taking pre-orders for the BlackBerry Storm from today. Vodafone has the exclusive rights to sells the RIM BlackBerry Storm handset in the UK. The Storm is the first touchscreen smartphone RIM has produced.

While exclusive operator deals for BlackBerry handsets are nothing new, Vodafone says the Storm 9500 was "exclusively purpose-built for Vodafone", suggesting other operators may not be able to start offering further down the line. Such a deal is similar to the one Apple struck with 02 to sell the iPhone. 02 is the exclusive operator in the UK and the iPhone can only be bought from the mobile operator or through Carphone Warehouse stores.

Vodafone also has a retail partner - Phones 4U will also be offering the BlackBerry Storm.

Vodafone BlackBerry Storm 9500 smartphone Pricing for the Storm is from free on a £35-per-month two-year contract. The £35 Vodafone Best for Text tariff will include 600 minutes of talktime and unlimited text-messaging. A Best for Talk tariff, which also costs £35 a month, customers will enjoy 700 minutes of talktime and 250 text messages plus unlimited calls to landline phones or Vodafone-to-Vodafone mobile phone calls.

Both tariffs offer unlimited internet access and email use and also include use of Vodafone's Find&Go navigation service for the first six months.

Other pricing options for 18-month and 24-month contracts can be found at www.vodafone.co.uk/storm.