Nokia is planning to offer its forthcoming Windows Phone 8 handsets through exclusive partnerships with European operators, in an attempt to recreate the buzz around Apple’s original iPhone in 2007.

The Finnish phone maker's usual sales approach is to get as many phones into as many hands as possible, via every available channel. However, the Financial Times reports that Nokia's new strategy is to form partnerships with one or two network operators in Europe, which will offer dedicated support for its smartphones.

Nokia has already held talks with France Telecom, according to the newspaper's sources, although no deal has yet been struck. Such a deal would likely involve Deutsche Telekom, with whom France Telecom has a joint procurement initiative, and could also feed through into their UK joint venture, Everything Everywhere.

These relationships would offer the chosen operators a financial stake in the success of the range, which would give them more of an incentive to push the products, according to the Financial Times.

The move mimics Apple's original strategy to offer its iPhone exclusively through US operator AT&T, and O2 in the UK. Apple has since expanded availability to other operators.

Commenting of the rumour, Nokia told Techworld that it has "excellent relationships and a regular dialogue with our operator partners," but that "the content of those discussions is not public".

The launch of Nokia smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system is seen by analysts as key to Nokia’s future success. The company has been struggling to keep up with Apple and Samsung in the smartphone race, and reported a 39 percent year-on-year drop in smartphone sales during the second quarter, to 10.2 million.

Windows Phone has yet to make its mark, with Android and Apple's iOS still taking the lion's share of the market. Most of the 10.2 million smart devices sold by Nokia were older models running Symbian – it shipped just four million Lumia smartphones running the Windows Phone OS.

News that existing Lumia models will not be compatible with Windows Phone 8 has done nothing to boost enthusiasm for the phones. Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said that the fact that current products are only going to be upgraded to Windows Phone 7.8 was likely to put off carriers more than consumers.

However, Nokia's chief executive Stephen Elop said that activations of new Lumia devices have been stable or increased since Microsoft's announcement of Windows Phone 8.

Windows Phone 8 devices are expected to be released in November, the month after the launch of the desktop OS.