BT Wants 4G Mobile Partners, And Could Call O2

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Could BT’s former mobile division O2 help develop its 4G spectrum?

BT has confirmed to TechWeekEurope that it has opened a tender for operators to provide mobile services to its customers, having acquired £186.5 million worth of 2.6 GHz bandwidth in the recent Ofcom 4G spectrum auction.

“We can confirm we’re looking for a fresh partnership with a mobile operator,” said a BT spokesperson. “We won some excellent 4G spectrum just recently so it makes sense for us to explore the new opportunities that 4G presents. We have a strong position in the Wi-Fi market and we are looking to build on that.

“We’re rolling out fibre at breakneck speed and it’s obvious that customers want decent speeds when they’re out and about as well as at home.”

BT Mobile network

BT towerThe process is apparently open to all operators, with Vodafone, EE and O2 all set to bid, but it has been suggested that the tender could favour O2, the mobile operator formerly known as BTCellnet, which split from BT in 2002 was subsequently bought by Telefonica.

BT said at the time of the auction that it had no plans to launch a mobile network and would instead use the bandwidth to offer an enhanced range of mobile broadband services to complement its nationwide network of BT Wi-Fi hotspots.

O2 won 20MHz of 800MHz spectrum in the auction at a cost of £550 million, but no 2.6GHz bandwidth, which offers greater capacity for faster speeds.  The FT has suggested that BT could trade spectrum with O2 or use it as part of a deal to offer 4G services to its customers.

BT already offers customers telephone, Internet and television services in the form of triple-play packages, but the addition of mobile services would allow it to enter the realm of ‘quad-play’, inhabited by Virgin Media with its Virgin Mobile MVNO.

A small BT mobile service using Vodafone’s network had been operated for nine years, but it is understood that this agreement was nullified when Vodafone acquired Cable and Wireless last year.

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