BT is set to venture back into consumer mobile space by offering customers access to its own-branded 4G network. In an interview with The Telegraph, BT Group CEO Ian Livingston confirmed the company has already invited tenders from other UK operators to form a 4G partnership and believes it is "highly possible" it will launch within the next 12 months.
BT's expansion marks a return to the mobile market after it sold its shares in O2 in 2002, and will see it go up against O2, Vodafone, EE, and Three to offer data services to UK consumers. It's a venture rare to the UK, but has seen US providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable try — and ultimately fail — to pull off. As operators look to expand their own services to offer broadband access to their customers, BT's announcement demonstrates the company's desire to become a supplier of the "quadruple play" — by adding mobile plans to its existing fixed phone, broadband, and TV packages.
To mark the launch of its new BT Sport channel, the company became the first broadcaster in more than 20 years to offer free weekly live matches from the English Premier League to subscribers of its broadband service. The company invested more than £1 billion ($1.53 billion) to leverage high-profile football, tennis, and rugby events away from its rivals — which include Rupert Murdoch-backed Sky. It has also signed former BBC presenters Clare Balding and Jake Humphrey to front its sports channel, while offering analysis from respected and freshly-retired sports professionals to boost its coverage.
It's "highly possible" BT could launch its mobile service within a year
BT hopes its 4G service will be able to supplement its broadband services, offering super-fast access to customers while they are outside the home. The company played an active part in the UK's 4G auction earlier in the year, where it secured three lots of 2.6GHz spectrum for £186.5 million ($286 million). At the end of April it also announced it had signed a 10-year agreement with O2 to provide additional 4G capacity and support its LTE rollout. BT has yet to say who it will partner with for its own service, but given its new and old ties to O2, we could see Telefonica play an important part in BT's mobile expansion in the near future.