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BT ToGo not challenging mobile service providers - yet

by David Mercer | May 07, 2008

BT launched its Total Broadband Anywhere service today. It is available to Option 3 broadband customers starting at an additional £5/month and includes a free smartphone. The contract is for a minimum of 18 months. The “50” option (£5/month) includes 50 minutes and 50 texts over Vodafone’s network. Higher price packages are available, up to £35/month, which includes 600 minutes and 700 texts. All packages include unlimited WiFi downloads and 10MB of data over GPRS connections. Two BT ToGo smartphones are available initially, both from HTC (whose brand is also on the devices) – the HTC S620 and S710. BT’s Gavin Patterson told us that he was working with other phone vendors and expected more devices to be available in future. 3G is also a possibility for the future, although BT does not believe it is necessary today, and clearly there are other network access technologies, such as Wimax, which may come along as well. The basis of BT’s Anywhere package is WiFi, so the devices will connect to the home wifi network, BT FON hotspots (currently 82,000 in the UK and an additional 190,000 worldwide), and 2500 BT Openzone hotspots in the UK and Ireland. The devices are based on Windows Mobile and preconfigured with customers’ BT Broadband settings, so that BT Yahoo email works “out of the box”. Other email accounts are also set up easily, simply by inputting an email address. Mobile security is also integrated. BT Broadband Talk is available at WiFi hotspots. I asked BT if this announcement represented the company’s mobile strategy, and the answer is a qualified “no”. It is first and foremost an extension of the company’s broadband offer, and gives customers the option to use a portable broadband device in mobile situations. If BT Broadband customers choose to drop their mobile service provider, the BT ToGo phones clearly allow them to do this, at a cost. Although BT wouldn’t put a number on it they clearly expect that a reasonable number of broadband customers will use BT ToGo as their main mobile service over time. At the same time they claimed they were not going “head to head” with other mobile service providers like Vodafone and Orange. If ToGo does start displacing mobile phone contracts, this could clearly change. The biggest concern with BT's approach is that it relies on a network partner's 2.5G service outside of WiFi hotspots. 10MB does not go very far for web browsing or any serious media applications, and while BT suggests most people will be happy just to download a few emails, it remains to be seen whether this will be a limitation for most users. Client Reading: Google-backed FON Movimiento: Peace, Love and Free WiFi Add to Technorati Favorites
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