BT is officially joining forces with 4G network EE, replacing Vodafone as BT's provider of mobile services. Could this mean a return for BT as a mobile network? Experts say some form of consumer 4G from BT is "almost inevitable."
Right now, BT does mobile services for businesses and the public sector, but hasn't been a mobile network for ordinary folk since 2001, when offshoot BT Cellnet became O2. BT has now finalised the deal with EE, announced last year after Vodafone bought Cable and Wireless, a rival of BT in the Wi-Fi market.
Mobile service would be another piece of the puzzle for BT as a provider of telecoms and entertainment services, given that as well as landlines it already offers broadband and television packages with free Wi-Fi while you're out and about. BT says it 'plans to build on' that Wi-Fi presence for consumers.
"BT is still trying to work out what to do with what's going on in its market," says industry expert Shaun Collins of CCS Insight, "but as it goes through a reinvention focused on using BT Vision TV services to defend its broadband position, 4G must be in its thinking. I think it's almost inevitable we'll see a more productive and more high-profile mobile offering from BT, whether it's as an MVNO or using its own 2.6GHz spectrum."
Rival Virgin Media offers a wider slate of mobile phone services, landlines, TV, and broadband. Virgin Media's mobile network is based on EE too, one of a whopping 26 mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) using EE masts and infrastructure.
EE is the UK's first 4G network, with super-fast data covering 70 percent of the UK's population across 174 towns. The network today announced its first own-brand smartphone, the, which costs just £100.