BT returns to wireless after an extended break

30 Jul 2003

UK telecoms incumbent BT Group [London: BT] has finalised its plans to re-enter the country’s mobile market 20 months after jumping ship, with the launch of a family-focused service next week. BT spun off its mobile networks to create mmO2 in November 2001, but with its traditional businesses coming under increasing attack from an ever-expanding list of competitors it has long been mulling a return to wireless operations. The new service, ingeniously branded BT Mobile Home Plan, will see the telco become a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), using the network of the UK’s third-placed cellco T-Mobile. It is intended to appeal to existing BT customers, targeting couples and families in particular, by offering incentives for a combined wireline and wireless service.

As with most post-pay call plans BT is offering bundled inclusive free calls, but with the added option of sharing these between all family members’ mobiles. Additionally, the standard GBP15 monthly mobile line rental will drop to GBP10 for up to five additional handsets whilst calls lasting less than two minutes made from the mobile to the family landline will be free. The new service is available direct through BT from next week and will be on sale at more than 1,000 high street shops, including major mobile retailers The Carphone Warehouse, The Link and Phones 4U, by the end of the year. The telco has managed to avoid a clash with Oftel over competition concerns by stating that the new service will not be subsidising its fixed-line business and that all billing will be kept separate.

BT’s tying up of customer’s fixed and mobile call usage is the latest move towards its goal of offering a fully converged communications service. It already packages a number of its home call options with bundled dial-up and broadband access, making wireless services the natural step forward. The launch of the Mobile Home Plan coincides with the start of trials by the operator of a new Bluetooth-enabled mobile solution that it claims will result in cheaper mobile calls from select locations. The ingeniously titled BluePhone service will allow trialists to have their calls routed via a fixed line network when at a ‘Bluetooth site’, currently including a number of offices and BT Centres, rather than over the traditional GSM network, resulting in cheaper and more reliable calls. The trials are currently being conducted with BT staff and a select number of corporate customers using Sony Ericsson handsets. A date has not yet been set for commercial launch.

United Kingdom