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BT’s consumer mobile plans in trouble – report

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It has been reported that BT has run into technical difficulties that are delaying its planned return to the consumer mobile market. As reported by the Telegraph, the telco has encountered problems in the technology designed to direct voice and data traffic over wifi rather than 4G.

BT’s plan is apparently to undercut mobile operators by enabling calls and data use via its 5.4 million wifi hotspots instead of 4G networks. According to the report, the problems transpire from the switch between wifi and mobile network, which is meant to happen seamlessly without disruption to calls.

The fixed line operator has an MVNO agreement in place with EE since October 2013, replacing an earlier agreement BT had with Vodafone.  So far BT has been using the deal to deliver mobile services to its employees and business customers, but plans to extend services to consumers.

The unnamed source quoted by the Telegraph said that the launch of the wifi mobile services could be pushed back until Q2 2015. This would apparently mean BT missing a self-imposed deadline to get the service up and running by the end of the current financial year.

But in a statement to Telecoms.com, BT maintained that the plans were on track, although it did not offer direct comment on the reported technical difficulties.

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“We have always been very clear that it will take the best part of two years to develop our consumer femtocell service and that remains the case. BT is still working towards launching consumer mobility services, using its MVNO, this financial year.”

The telco launched its business mobile offering with BT One Phone unified communications earlier this year. The BT One Phone family includes office and professional modules, and is designed to unify desk and mobile phones, as well as the office phone system allowing it to be used even when away from the office.

It is expected that with a consumer mobile offering finally in place, BT will entice customers by offering full packages covering broadband, TV, mobile and fixed line phone services.

Speculation has followed the incumbent’s surprise bid in the spectrum auction last year, where it won 2.6GHz bandwidth (£186.5 million). The firm kept the industry guessing what it will do with the spectrum for quite some time, but it is now clear it is eventually re-entering the consumer mobile market.

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