BT launches its return to the consumer mobile market

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT.
Photo: BT

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT. Photo: BT - Credit: Archant

Telecoms giant BT has launched its move back into the consumer mobile market with a range of SIM-only 4G plans.

It announced tariffs starting at £5 a month as a “reward” for its broadband customers, who can add a mobile plan to their existing bills.

Customers can also opt for a £12 a month plan that comes with 2GB of data and 500 minutes, or a £20 a month deal with 20GB and unlimited minutes. Non-BT broadband customers will pay £5 a month more for each tariff.

All three deals are SIM-only, meaning customers will need their own handsets, but BT is giving those signing up to a plan a £50 voucher to redeem against its range of 4G phones. The deals also offer free BT Sport via the app.

BT said today’s announcement was the first in its consumer mobile strategy, which would develop over the coming years.

It took its first big step back into the mobile phone market in July with a new business service aimed at delivering fixed line and mobile calls to the same handset.

Chief executive Gavin Patterson had repeatedly said that the firm would launch a mobile service for the wider public by the end of the current financial year.

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BT has agreed terms to acquire mobile operator EE for £12.5billion. BT’s mobile offer will initially run via a partnership with EE agreed prior to the takeover negotiations. BT said it would reveal more details about what it will be able to offer customers after the deal is completed.

BT Consumer chief executive John Petter said: “These great value deals are a thank you from us to loyal BT Broadband homes. We are offering customers a new type of great value mobile deal that offers more than just data, minutes and texts.

“Our customers are consuming increasing amounts of data and they want the best possible connection wherever they are.

“It’s our ambition to meet this demand by combining the power of our fixed fibre service with wi-fi and the convenience of mobile.”

Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms spokesman at broadbandchoices, said: “BT’s 4G SIM-only launch is exactly the kind of shake-up that was needed. Starting at just £5 per month, 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.

“BT’s timing is certainly opportune. As mobile phone handset improvements plateau, an increasing number of people are simply keeping their existing handset and buying a low cost SIM-only deal, rather than shelling out for an expensive monthly contract that comes with a slightly better handset included.

“This trend will lead to greater churn generally in the mobile market as SIM-only contracts tend to last for just 30 days or 12 months, rather than the 24-month restrictive contracts traditionally associated with handset-inclusive deals.”

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “BT entering the quad play market could lead to stronger competition but consumers need to be able to easily compare prices of the services offered. Any impact on competition in the mobile market will depend on the terms of BT’s agreement with EE.

“BT should use its entry into this market to drive improvements in customer service and to innovate for its customers. Any positive changes must not be set back by the merger of BT and EE.”