BT has finalised terms for its £12.5 billion bid for EE, a move which will see the UK’s biggest ISP become the UK’s biggest mobile network.
The deal will see BT and EE able to accelerate plans for improved mobile coverage both indoors and outdoors by way of a so-called ‘inside-out network’.
In plain English, this means that wireless routers will act as mini mobile masts in the home, meaning indoor coverage can be expanded quickly without the need for setting up large masts.
EE’s tests of voice calls over WiFi and 4G and its microcell programme could also influence how an embiggened BT could improve call quality and reception in more areas. The 4G spectrum auctions saw BT snap up a small 2.6GHz licence, which can now be used to bolster EE’s own spectrum holdings.
Read our feature on BT’s bid for EE and what it means for EE customersBT says that the deal will increase scope for investing in future strategies, but it’s stopped short of saying how else it might build what it’s calling a ‘world-class digital infrastructure’ for the UK.
Gavin Patterson, BT’s chief executive said: “This is a major milestone for BT as it will allow us to accelerate our mobility plans and increase our investment in them. The UK’s leading 4G network will now dovetail with the UK’s biggest fibre network, helping to create the leading converged communications provider in the UK.”
The deal will see BT snaffling up EE’s 31 million mobile customers along with 834,000 fixed-broadband customers. It’s not yet known if the EE brand will be kept alive or if it’ll be rebranded as ‘BT Mobile’ ‘Cellnet 2.0’, or ‘BEE TEE’.
EE’s chief executive Olaf Swantee added: “Joining BT represents an exciting next stage for our company, customers, and people. In the last few years alone, we have built the UK’s biggest, fastest and best 4G network, significantly advancing the digital communications infrastructure for people and businesses across Britain. Today’s announcement will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the mobile revolution, bringing even more innovation and investment in world leading connectivity for our customers.”
The deal still requires approval from telecoms regulator Ofcom. It’s possible that rivals could raise concerns about competition and market dominance which could see BT obliged to let others use its mobile network or access infrastructure.
Before Orange and T-Mobile were allowed to join forces and form EE, Ofcom ruled that the UK’s smallest network Three should have access to EE’s masts.