BT takes tentative step back into mobile market with launch of SIM-only deal

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BT took a first step back into the consumer mobile market yesterday while it awaits a decision from regulators on its deal to buy EE, the country’s biggest mobile operator.

BT will use EE’s network to offer its new mobile service, as part of a plan which it had been working on prior to the acquisition deal. Further details of its new mobile strategy would be provided after it absorbed EE, BT said.

Britain’s biggest fixed line and broadband provider hopes to win approval for its £12.5bn acquisition of EE before the end of its financial year on March 31, 2016. It agreed the deal with EE’s owners Orange and Deutsche Telekom last month.

As a stop-gap, BT said it was launching a SIM-only deal – giving subscribers calls, texts and data but no handset – with the best offers reserved for existing broadband customers, starting from £5 per month. BT’s rivals, wary of the group’s potential dominance, particularly in providing the infrastructure that mobile operators rely on, have called on regulators to intervene in the deal.

BT has been absent from the consumer mobile services industry for 13 years. It had owned mobile operator O2 before it was demerged via a share flotation in 2001.

“Offering BT customers the UK’s best value 4G data deal is a great way to start our journey towards re-establishing ourselves as a major player in consumer mobile,” John Petter, chief executive of BT consumer, said in a statement.

BT’s new mobile offer comes at a time of change in the communications industry. As well as consolidation, there is a trend for major providers to position themselves to offer a package of services including fixed and mobile calls, broadband and entertainment.

BT said its new mobile customers will also get access to BT Sport, which shows some Premier League football matches, through an app. They will also benefit from access to BT’s wi-fi hotspots across the country.