Ahead of closing its deal to buy EE for £12.5 billion, BT is laying the groundwork for its new mobile business and quad-play strategy, today: the company has now officially launched BT Mobile — a 4G service that will run on EE’s network, for now by way of an MVNO deal, with pricing starting at a competition-busting £5 per month.
“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.
It also potentially lays the groundwork for something else: BT rebranding the mobile company after it completes the acquisition.
“BT Mobile has launched running via the MVNO with EE,” a spokesperson confirmed to me. “BT are planning to look at branding options over the coming months.” Testing the waters on just how many people want, like, hate or are neutral on a BT Mobile brand is another advantage of launching a new BT Mobile offering ahead of the merger completing.
BT’s deal here is that it is running the service as an MVNO — a mobile virtual network operator — meaning that it is buying excess capacity from EE on a wholesale basis and then putting its branding and extra services on top of the basic white-label connectivity.
It’s not clear what will happen with the MVNO on EE’s network once BT’s deal to buy the carrier is closed. One obvious option will be that BT will migrate whatever BT Mobile users it manages to pick up as direct, rather than MVNO, customers.
News of the BT Mobile plan was actually leaked out days ago. Making it official now is timely and points to the new generation of the competition in the UK. Just yesterday, Telefonica announced that it has agreed on the terms of its sale of O2 to Three in the UK.
As you would expect from a service launching into a massively saturated market like the UK, BT Mobile is going for the jugular in terms of pricing. And in doing so, it is also leveraging existing assets in areas like WiFi, broadband and TV in the process.
Customers who are already taking broadband services from BT can pick up SIM-only deals starting at £5 per month for bundles covering 500 MB of 4G data, 200 voice minutes and unlimited text messages if you have BT Broadband, £10 if you do not. BT says that overall it will be giving discounts of up to 40% for existing BT customers. Other perks include free access to BT Sport using the BT Sport app.
A tariff of £12/month will let BT Broadband customers boost the 4G data cap to 2GB, with unlimited texts and 500 minutes, £17/month for customers who don’t have BT Broadband.
Power users can get 20GB of 4G data, with unlimited texts and minutes, for £20 a month with a BT Broadband subscription, £25 without.
BT is also selling a small range of handsets for those who also need a new phone.