BT plotting some kind of hybrid mobile network for UK

Our totally unfounded rumour – BT could reacquire the Airwave network

fibre broadband & 4G need each other - patterson

Here at GoMo News, we’ve long known that BT (formerly British Telecommunications) has rued the day it decided to sell off its mobile phone network. Known as Cellnet, it is effectively now the O2 network which is now owned by Spain’s Telefonica. The perceived wisdom these days, however, is that in order to properly compete you must be a true ‘quad play’ player. Unfortunately, without its own cellular network, BT can only be a tri-play player. So it has rumoured to the UK publication – The Sunday Times (ST), its plan to offer consumers some form of mobile network. Reading between the lines, it appears that BT is intending to achieve this goal using some massively hybrid mobile technology offering.

In the interview BT’s new CEO, Gavin Patterson, alludes to the fact that research 70 per cent of all voice calls made on smartphones (in the UK) are actually made indoors.

So BT could route all of those calls over its broadband networking using some kind of low cost femtocell. Or it could route voice calls via Wi-fi.

The British telecoms giant has tried a very similar trick before- routing cellular calls over its fixed network.

About seven years ago, BT tried a similar trick with a service called BT Fusion but made the huge mistake of employing Bluetooth technology rather than W-fi. It failed.

But today, the standards on which Fusion was based UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) still survive.

GoMo News frequently sees its BlackBerry swap over to UMA whilst at home. That’s probably because we have both Orange fixed internet and an Orange cellular plan.

Significantly, The ST piece mentions the fact that it is currently using EE to act as an MVNO. And EE owns Orange.

Another option would be to deploy femtocell technology, whereby customers install their own ‘cell’ and cellular calls are routed over fixed broadband. Vodafone offers this with Sure Signal.

BT could possibly just add femtocell technology into its Home Hub products.

Then there is the allusion to the fact that BT did, in fact, buy a chunk of 4G frequencies in the UK for around £200 million.

The ST even goes as far as quoting Patterson saying,”Fibre broadband and 4G mobile go together beautifully – they need each other.”

There’s also a hint that BT realises that to compete as a true MNO [Mobile Network Operator], it needs High Street presence.

The best bit, of course, is that if BT decides to take this approach – rather than merely selling mobile into the enterprise, it can choose to resell just a few smartphones capable of running its hybrid technology.

Juts to add another red herring to this mix, BT used to own and operates a TETRA based network which O2 inherited.

The network, known as Airwave, is now owned by Aussie based Macquarie. But although it ain’t 2G or even 3G – it is national.

Perhaps BT could reacquire Airwave and use its infrastructure to build out a 4G only network? Just a thought.

About Tony Dennis

Tony is currently Editor of GoMobile News. He's a veteran telecoms journalist who has previously worked for major printed and online titles. Follow him on Twitter @GoMoTweet.
This article was published in 4G, EE, Featured, Vodafone, Wifi, mobile news, o2, telefonica and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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