BT & EE pitch converged network vision

A week after it announced 13,000 job losses to ease cost pressures and fulfil its converged network ambitions, BT has finally given some concrete details about how this will be achieved.

New converged products from both BT and EE will deliver the best of both worlds, the first of which will be available next week.

BT has spoken about its vision of seamless connectivity between broadband, mobile and fixed networks ever since the £12.5 billion takeover of EE in 2016, but most of its efforts since the acquisition to date have been focused on team integration and restructuring.

Now it’s ready to deliver.

Converged vision

“We made some tough choices last week as a group but we are investing the savings in networks and customer service, which is what customers want,” said Marc Allera, BT Consumer CEO.

Convergence is really just a complicated term that means bringing things together - networks, ideas, teams and content. Convergence for us is about bringing the best of everything we do to one place. We’ve already brought our teams together so now we’re bringing our networks together.

“Our broadband, mobile and Wi-Fi networks … are the biggest and best in the UK. But they’re not connected together. We’re on a journey to make this a single smart network. This will mean numbers, content and identity can move seamlessly between different devices on different networks.

“Only we have all these networks and the team to do this.”

BT’s superfast broadband network reaches more than 95 per cent of the UK population, while it has ambitions for the EE 4G network to reach 95 per cent of the UK’s landmass by the end of the decade. It also has more than 6 million  public Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK.

It is currently upgrading its network to deliver ultrafast speeds through a combination of fibre to the premise (FTTP) technology and G.Fast, which speeds up copper connections. It also wants to be the first in the UK to launch 5G, but it has not revealed many concrete details.

“We’re very excited about what 5G is going to give,” said Allera in response to a question from TechRadar Pro. “As it launches, the lines between fixed and mobile blur even more. It’s an exciting part but not the only part of the convergence journey. We want to be first. We have the teams and the know-how, just as we did to bring 4G to the market first.”

New products

All three of BT Consumer’s main brands will benefit, with BT Consumer delivering a ‘home-centric’ vision of convergence and EE a ‘mobile-centric’. Plusnet also stands to benefit, but perhaps in a more limited way given its focus on value and simplicity.

‘BT+’ Plus launches next week, offering the fastest available broadband and mobile speeds to a whole household and the promise that if a connection fails, then all phones will get unlimited mobile data enabled automatically. If BT can’t fix the fault within a day, then customers will get a Mobile Wi-Fi device to connect to EE 4G until it is resolved.

EE’s converged proposition is perhaps more revolutionary. A new service starting in 2019 will deliver hybrid broadband, combining fixed and mobile connections in a single router, a possible game changer for areas with poor service.

The operator also announced a raft of new SIM-Only tariffs, family plans, BT Sport offers and home broadband deals, as well as its intention to sell more smart home devices.

Customer service boost

In a bid to get this converged message across to consumers, BT and EE will both receive a major new marketing push, while BT will return all of its call centres to the UK by 2020, having already done so for EE.

BT will also return to the high street, with its products available in all 620 of EE’s retail outlets.

“Many brands are moving away from the high street but with all these devices and this complexity, customers want [things] explained to them,” argued Allera.

It is also hoped that this will deliver more personalised, local customer service and falls in line with BT’s announcement last week that it would leave its St Pauls headquarters to focus on 30 or so regional centres.

“We know we will not increase the number of connections unless we are the very best in our customers’ eyes

“I am so proud to be leading the BT brand. This is a national icon, it’s part of the digital backbone of the country and it’s always been about communication, sharing and helping people connect to the things that matter to them.”

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.