BT to re-enter mobile phone market in UK

The news comes ten years after BT offloaded its mobile business to O2. Picture: Allan Milligan
The news comes ten years after BT offloaded its mobile business to O2. Picture: Allan Milligan
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TELECOMS giant BT has made a move back into the mobile phone market – ten years after offloading its business to O2.

The firm said it would offer £5 a month 4G deals to existing broadband customers on a sim-only basis – in partnership with EE, the network it is currently trying to buy.

BT is throwing its hat back in the mobile ring

Ernest Doku, uSwitch

In a statement, the company also confirmed that it had agreed a £12.5 billion buyout of EE, but said further details would only be given after the deal is completed. The move takes BT into the “quad play” market – which combines broadband internet access, television and telephone operations with wireless service provisions.

It unveiled three “bring your own phone” tariffs, which it claimed offered customers the best 4G deals in the UK. The basic deal – which includes 200 minutes of calls and 500MB of 4G data – will cost £10 a month to customers who do not have a BT broadband subscription. It will also offer access to its BT Sport channel via an app. It also hinted at further expansion of its consumer mobile phone business in future, saying that yesterday’s announcement was a “first step” in the strategy, which it will “develop over the coming years”.

BT, which was one of the pioneers of mobile phone networks in the 1980s with its Cellnet brand, spun off its mobile phone arm to become O2 in 2002. The business was later bought out by Spanish operator Telefonica.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, said: “After a long time away, BT is throwing its hat back in the mobile ring with an incredibly competitive set of sim-only tariffs – provided you’re an existing customer.

“In a time of hand-me-down smartphones, BT’s plans are perfectly poised to become a disruptive part of its consumer strategy – and that’s before the EE acquisition comes into the equation.”

But consumer groups warned that BT should ensure that its new deals did not disappear following its merger with EE, which was formed from the merger of T-Mobile and Orange four years ago.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “BT entering the quad play market could lead to stronger competition but consumers need to be able to easily compare prices of the services offered. Any positive changes must not be set back by the merger of BT and EE.”

Two years ago, BT came under fire from the advertising watchdog after broadcasting an ad which appeared to suggest that mobile phones – which were at that point not part of the company’s offering – interfered with wifi signal.

John Petter, chief executive of BT Consumer, said: “Offering BT customers the UK’s best value 4G data deal is a great way to start our journey towards re-establishing ourselves as a major player in consumer mobile.”

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