BT has hinted that it could launch a consumer mobile phone brand for the first time since BT Cellnet was sold off.
The UK’s biggest ISP has announced that its business mobile customers will soon be able to make use of EE’s 2G, 3G and 4G signal.
The same press release contained the enigmatic hint: “For consumers, it [BT] has a strong wi-fi presence that it plans to build on.”
Business subscribers will benefit from EE’s aggressive 4G rollout, which currently provides next-gen mobile services to 70 per cent of the UK population. By the end of 2014, 98 per cent of the population should be able to get 4G from EE.
Currently, BT runs an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) which supplies mobile services to business customers over the Vodafone network, and EE will take over this role.
BT also owns a pair of 15MHz channels and 20MHz of unpaired frequencies in the 2.6GHz band from last year’s 4G auction, but BT spokespeople refused to provide any more detail about its consumer plans.
A spokesperson told Recombu: “BT’s 4G will be complementary to the services that EE are going to provide in as part of the MVNO deal.”
At the time of the auction, former chief executive Ian Livingston said: “This spectrum will complement our existing strategy of delivering a range of services using fixed and wireless broadband.”
This could mean boosting indoor wireless coverage for its broadband customers, if BT opts to build a device similar to the Indiegogo-funded Multipath router.
Or BT could be planning to use 4G to deliver TV without a set-top box beyond the footprint of the Openreach fibre network, something which rival ISP TalkTalk accidentally let slip it was working on.
We don’t know for sure exactly what BT’s 4G intentions are or how they’ll complement EE’s existing 4G network. Will BT resurrect the Cellnet brand? All we can do until BT reveals more is speculate.