‘BT to return to mobile market’

BT is plotting a return to the consumer mobile telecoms market, following its acquisition of a slice of the UK’s 4G spectrum earlier this year.

BT Cellnet logo

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, BT chief executive Ian Livingston said it was “highly possible” the company would offer mobile smartphone SIM cards next year.

The move would mark a u-turn from its decision to exit the mass mobile market by divesting its ownership of the O2 mobile brand – formerly BT Cellnet – in 2002.

Last month BT began its search for a partner to support its renewed drive into the mobile sector, which could set up a potential reunion with O2, but the company did not confirm plans in the interview.

Although BT and O2 paid £186m and £550m respectively during Ofcom’s 4G auction, they both acquired fairly limited chunks of the total spectrum, so a partnership could benefit both parties in terms of capacity.

It is understood the new mobile service will be available to existing BT customers as part of a bundle of their existing telephone, broadband and TV services. Last week BT added to its offering by launching Sports television channels, which pits it head to head against BSkyB.

The 4G network is also set to provide better coverage in customers’ homes and at its existing network of public WiFi hotspots.

A BT spokesman said: “We can confirm that we’re exploring various options given the excellent spectrum we have and that we plan to build on our strength in WiFi. We’ll say more once we conclude our invitation to tender.”

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