Orange, T-Mobile Customers Register For Roaming

Everything Everywhere is to allow Orange and T-Mobile customers to use the two UK networks interchangeably from next month

British Orange and T-Mobile users will be able to roam across the two networks from next month – the first step in integrating the two brands into the Everything Everywhere joint venture announced last year.

Everything Everywhere officially began operations as the UK’s biggest mobile operator in July, with more than 30 million customers, or, as the company points out, nearly half the entire UK population of about 61 million. The operator, with about 16,500 staff, is jointly owned by France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, which are respectively the owners of the Orange and T-Mobile brands.

Customers must sign up to use the initial roaming service via the websites of either Orange or T-Mobile, Everything Everywhere announced on Friday.

Broader coverage

Once a customer is registered, if they lose signal on their existing network, they will automatically pick up the signal from the other network where it is available, the operator said. The service will take effect on 5 October.

As of next year, integration will be improved to the point where customers will be switched to whichever of the signals is stronger in mid-call, the operator said. The improvements will also include improved data coverage.

The offer is available to pay-as-you-go, pay monthly and business customers.

Everything Everywhere chief executive Tom Alexander said the operator is ultimately aiming for a “multinet” experience, combining the benefits of different networking technologies, incuding mobile, fixed and Wi-Fi.

“Until now, the industry has been working in a single network environment,” he said. “We have a vision of a ‘multinet’ world where the consumer will be able to access what they want, when they want, at the touch of a button. It will all be possible due to a complex system of interweaving multiple networks, bringing mobile, Wi-Fi and fixed technologies together to act as a super network.” The operator said it plans to begin building an LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile network next year, with its first LTE handsets scheduled for availability in 2012.

Gradual merger

Deutsche Telekom put the T-Mobile UK unit up for sale in May 2009. Vodafone reportedly considered a £3 billion bid for T-Mobile UK in June, as did O2. However, T-Mobile and Orange finally confirmed they intended to merge in November.

The merger got the green light from the European Commission back in February, after the parent companies (France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom) offered to sell off part of their combined radio spectrum in exchange of EC approval of the deal. This was despite the consumer group, the Communications Consumer Panel, expressing its unease over the EC’s approval of the merger without a detailed investigation.

In May it was revealed that the combined entity of Orange and T-Mobile would be named ‘Everything Everywhere’, but that the two brands would remain autonomous.

Everything Everywhere looks set to dominate the mobile sector, as it still has the bulk of the 1800 MHz spectrum in the UK, and should have a significant advantage over other mobile networks.

Other advantages include its colossal size compared to other mobile players. Even Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile operator (in terms of sales), will be dwarfed in its home market, with Everything Everywhere controlling a 37 percent slice of the UK mobile space.