BT is back in the mobile game. BT Mobile offers SIM-only 4G contracts that come with free BT Sport action and big discounts for BT Broadband customers.
The first three contracts announced today by BT Mobile are 12 month deals, so you're not locked in as long as you would be with rivals offering 18 month and two year deals. Starting at just £5 if you're a BT Broadband customer, they're SIM-only, which means BT provides the calls, text and data, and you have to provide the phone.
That said, you can buy your phone from BT -- at present, four 4G phones are available: thefor £100, for £110, for £170, or for £400. According to Kelly Barlow, Director of Voice and Mobile at BT, the company will add newer phones to that lineup as they are released, and may consider contract phones further down the line.
BT Mobile customers will also enjoy Premier League footie and other sporting action with free access to the BT Sport app. And if you sign up you can also use BT Wi-Fi hotspots when you're out and about.
BT's broadband customers will get up to 50 percent off mobile deals. Those discounts are available to anyone in a household with a BT connection, even if you're not the account holder. Up to five mobile discounted plans can be included on one bill, so you could kit out the whole family with a mobile from BT. Parental controls and bill caps are also included to keep spending under control.
The cheapest contract offers 500MB of 4G data, unlimited texts and 200 minutes for £5 per month if you are a BT Broadband customer, or £10 if you get your broadband elsewhere. 2GB of data with unlimited texts and 500 minutes costs BT Broadband customers £12 a month, or £17 a month for everyone else.
The top-end contract nets you 20GB of 4G data and unlimited calls and texts. BT Broadband customers pay £20 per month for that deal, and everyone else pays £25.
BT Mobile roars out of the gate with "a more aggressive launch than we were expecting", says industry analyst Kester Mann of CCS Insight. "The £5 entry tariff will grab headlines, but inclusive access to BT Sport offers real differentiation."
BT Mobile is an MVNO, which means the BT brand is on the front, while the masts and other technical infrastructure are provided by EE. EE has the widest 4G coverage, but it is worth checking you get a decent signal in your neck of the woods before committing.
BT currently supplies landlines, broadband and TV. By adding mobile service, BT becomes a "quad-play" company, aiming to take care of all your telecoms needs. "BT's 4G SIM-only launch is exactly the kind of shake-up that's needed", says Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at comparison site broadbandchoices. "The pricing is very competitive for existing BT customers and confirms BT's ambitious plans to dominate quad-play before anyone else can get a foothold.
"TalkTalk and Virgin Media have both had their own mobile offering for a while now, yet people have so far remained hesitant to sign up on a quad-play basis. Broadband, TV and phone are still very much seen as household purchases whereas a mobile phone service is considered a personal one. Bringing about a shift in perception will not happen overnight but if BT are willing to put the marketing muscle behind these packages, quad-play could completely change the bundles market."
Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at comparison site uSwitch.com, chimes in on the subject of quad-play: "As more customers consider taking multiple services with one provider, a strong mobile offering is the final string in BT's bow." Yet with so many different bundles available, it is important to "make sure you look at what you use and what you need before signing up for something that isn't the perfect bundle for you."
This is the first time BT will offer consumer mobile services since 2002, when the BT Cellnet mobile network was sold off and became O2. It's interesting that BT has gone ahead with plans for its own network, considering the company is also in the throes of buying the UK's largest mobile network EE, a £12.5 billion deal expected to be finalised by early 2016.
Kester Mann compares BT Mobile's launch to the aggressive -- and successful -- strategy adopted in France by Free Mobile. He points out that BT should be careful with how it positions itself against EE, as it will soon own it, but he says today's launch "heaps additional pressure on the likes of Sky, Vodafone and Virgin to accelerate multi-play strategies in an increasingly cut-throat UK market."
It's certainly a time of change for the mobile industry: as well as the new BT network announced today and BT's aquisition of EE, Three's European owner, while .