BT has made an offer to buy EE. Aside from the UK’s biggest ISP taking over the UK’s biggest mobile network, what does this mean for EE customers?
At this moment in time, not that much. There’s a deal on the table – £12.5 billion and a stack of BT shares for EE’s owners – but the ink’s not even on the dotted line yet.
It’s far too soon to say for sure what the deal means for EE customers, but here’s what we know so far.
BT’s bid is for EE mobile and broadband
Contrary to what was suggested by BT’s initial announcement, we’ve since been able to confirm that the bid is for both EE’s mobile and broadband business.
That means should the deal go ahead in its present form, all EE customers would effectively become BT customers.
What isn’t known is if EE will continue to exist as a separate brand.
It’s entirely possible that BT could launch a virtual mobile network, call it something like BT Mobile and leave EE as it is, existing as a BT-owned independently-run ISP much like Plusnet.
Or it could not – EE broadband could cease to be, around 800,000 customers could be migrated to BT’s network and EE mobile could cease to be. BT and EE aren’t saying either way yet.
We hope that the EE brand sticks around, if only for Kevin Bacon’s sake.
Acceleration of BT’s inside-out mobile network plans
BT wants to set up what’s being called an ‘inside-out network’.
Future BT Home Hubs will act as mini mobile masts, boosting your mobile coverage in the home.
Instead of making and receiving calls over the mobile network, you’ll be able to make calls over 4G, similar to how you can with TalkTalk’s Talk2Go app.
EE has been experimenting with how its customers can make calls over WiFi and 4G, with a view to this happening automatically – you won’t have to fire up an app.
You’ll just come home, your phone will connect to WiFi, and you’ll be able to make and receive calls as normal.
Merging with EE will see BT better able to develop its plans, but the telco will persevere with its inside-out mission regardless of what happens.
Faster rollout of superfast broadband and 4G
Both BT and EE are committed to bringing superfast broadband and 4G to the majority of people by 2017 and early 2015 respectively.
BT’s engineers have been busy rolling out several hundred kilometers of fibre optic cable across the country, dotting roads, streets and villages with shiny new green cabinets.
EE’s 4G network now reaches 75 per cent of the population and the network wants to reach more by the end of the year.
For both companies, some of the biggest challenges involve reaching customers in remote communities.
EE’s experiments with fixed-location 4G in Threlkeld, Cumbria proves that its superfast network can provide a service that’s roughly equivalent to what BT’s FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections can provide – better in some places.
If BT can’t reach a community immediately, it’s possible that the 4G network could be used to provide a stand in service.
BT has also mooted the idea of using its telephone poles and street cabinets to act as mini mobile masts which could complement EE’s existing rollout of small cells in over 1,000 rural locations across the UK.
Nothing’s been announced from either party yet but it’s clear that there’s potential for the combined powers of BT and EE to reach more people with next-gen services more quickly.
Quad play bundles – broadband, home phone, TV and mobile services
It’s expected that the deal would see BT becoming a quad play provider. It’ll be able to offer punters superfast broadband, home phone, TV and mobile deals, like Virgin Media’s Big Bundles.
Combined with LTE-A services from EE, BT will be able to cook up some seriously attractive deals for customers.
Nobody is talking about the specifics of any deals just yet. If EE continues to exist as a separate entity a la Plusnet, expect EE customers to be offered generous discounts on BT services.
The end of EE TV?
If the bid goes ahead, it’s possible that the only-just-arrived EE TV could go the way of the dodo.
BT is a YouView partner and it might not been too keen on the idea of running two separate TV systems at the same time – it’s only just been able to stop selling old-school BT Vision. It’s highly likely that EE TV could become the most stillborn TV product to ever hit the UK market, perhaps after ITV Digital.
Then again, if BT maintains a hands-off approach and EE exists as a separate brand, EE TV could hang in there if it proves to be popular with customers. It’s got a few things that YouView doesn’t – a second screen experience, the 24 hour Replay catch up feature – and it was able to get Connected Red Button weeks after EE TV launched and it’s taken YouView nearly two years to get it.
Whatever happens, EE TV customers will continue to be supported for as long as they have the hardware.
Even though BT has stopped selling BT Vision boxes, the service will continue to work for existing customers.