BT storms back to mobe biz with SIM-only swoop on broadband customers

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

BT returns to mobile-phone market with airtime deals.

LONDON (Reuters) – BT took a first step back into the consumer mobile market on Wednesday while it awaits a decision from regulators on its deal to buy EE, the country’s biggest mobile operator.After announcing it was going to take over EE at the end of last year , BT has now released details of its first mobile plans since it sold O2 in 2005.Designed as a lure for BT’s broadband service – the group’s main moneyspinner – mobile subscriptions will come at up to half price for BT broadband customers.

The deals look great: 4G deals from a fiver a month; BT Sport thrown in – offering live Premier League football games on your mobile or tablet; monthly spend caps to avoid bill shock; the freedom to move between plans without taking out a new contract; and parental controls. The former state-owned telecoms company, which is in the process of acquiring the EE network for a fully fledged assault on mobile when the £12.5bn deal is completed, is dipping its toe in the market with a limited service offering airtime but no handsets. They’re also better value for people who already have a BT Broadband deal, so those without can get a cheaper 4G deal – although not by much – with another provider. “As mobile phone handset improvements plateau, an increasing number of people are simply keeping their existing handset and buying a low cost SIM-only, rather than shelling out for an expensive monthly contract that comes with a slightly better handset included.” Check your contract: Double check your records to make sure you are free of any contractual commitments.

The new BT service, launched on Wednesday, will run over airtime rented from EE, and will combine mobile airwaves with access to BT’s network of 5m Wi-Fi i hotspots. As a stop-gap, BT said it was launching a SIM-only deal – giving subscribers calls, texts and data but no handset – with the best offers reserved for existing broadband customers, starting from 5 pounds ($7) per month. Unlock your handset: If your handset is ‘locked’ to your existing network (i.e. your handset will only function using a SIM card from your provider) and you want to get a SIM only deal from another network, you may have to get it unlocked in order for your new SIM to work.

BT’s rivals, wary of the group’s potential dominance, particularly in providing the infrastructure that mobile operators rely on, have called on regulators to intervene in the deal. Policies vary depending on who you are with and some networks will unlock your phone for free but be warned that some networks do charge a fee (£15 – £30) to ‘unlock’ handsets, even if you are out of contract. The discounted rates will be offered for up to five devices per household. “Rivals should be threatened by this move and Sky in particular will need to react given how punchy BT’s sim-only deals are,” said Paolo Pescatore of analysis firm CCS Insight. “With this in mind Sky may need to launch mobile a lot sooner.” Pescatore said he expected a low-key launch, building to a bigger marketing assault on the mobile market over the summer. It had owned mobile operator O2 before it was demerged via a share flotation in 2001. “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,” John Petter, chief executive of BT consumer, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Its has already retaliated against Sky with a foray into football, spending billions on Premier League and Champions League matches and a brand new broadcasting studio in east London. As well as consolidation, there is a trend for major providers to position themselves to offer a package of services including fixed and mobile calls, broadband and entertainment. Spain’s Telefonica said on Tuesday it had finalised a deal to sell its British mobile business O2 to Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa for 10.25 billion pounds.

It’s our ambition to meet this demand by combining the power of our fixed fibre service with wi-fi and the convenience of mobile.” The cheapest offer is for 500mb of 4G data, unlimited texts and 200 minutes for £5 a month for those who take BT broadband, £10 a month for those who do not.

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