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October 10, 2013 12:37 pm
BT will revive its consumer mobile operations by launching services under a partnership deal struck on Thursday with EE, the UK’s largest mobile operator.
The two companies have agreed terms on a wholesale contract for BT to use the EE network, which includes its superfast 4G services, following a tender process.
BT’s consumer mobile operations have been relatively forgotten in a wider corporate strategy that has focused on television and broadband in the past few years. BT already provides some mobile services, but mainly to businesses and the public sector. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
A BT executive, who wished not to be named, said that there was a significant opportunity in mobile telecoms, including offering its customers so-called “quad play” bundles of TV, broadband and fixed and mobile telecoms. In the US, for example, it is more commonplace to buy mobile services as a household, rather than as an individual, as part of a wider package.
BT’s mobile strategy will be rooted on its home and business WiFi services, which can be used by mobile phones as part of a broadband deal. BT acquired almost £200m of 4G mobile spectrum in the recent 4G auction, which it will use alongside the agreement with EE to offer mobile internet and calls to customers when they leave WiFi areas.
The decision will be a blow for O2, which has also pitched for the business. BT sold O2 in 2000 when it was known as Cellnet, which at the time spelt the end of BT’s big ambitions in the mobile market. O2 is now owned by Spain’s Telefónica.
BT said that the multiyear agreement would strengthen an existing relationship between BT and EE. The contract to provide mobile services to BT had previously been run by Vodafone, which will transfer BT’s mobile staff to EE. Vodafone’s agreement had been cancelled after its acquisition of Cable & Wireless Worldwide, a BT rival.
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