BT seeking partners for new mobile venture

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The Independent Online

BT, the telecoms group, is in talks with the country's five mobile phone operators about combining mobile and fixed line phones on one handset using one number.

Pierre Danon, head of BT's consumer arm BT Retail, said the company was likely to partner with up to two mobile phone operators. "We are very open-minded ... it could be one, it could be two," he said.

The 'project bluephone' service, which is still being tested in trials, will enable customers to have one phone handset.

The handset will use the BT network when customers are at home just like a normal phone, and will use a mobile phone network, acting like a mobile phone, when they are out.

Mr Danon said the technology for the service worked "perfectly" already and reiterated that he hoped it would be launched next year.

Separately, BT said it would spend £5.5m on a Christmas marketing campaign for its new mobile phone service, called 'BT Mobile Home Plan'.

It is hoping the service - aimed at families - will attract one million users by the end of next year and contribute around a third of the £300m of revenue it forecasts it will be making from mobile business during that time.

The service was 'soft-launched' in July but will be available on the high street from Monday.

"The reason why it [mobile] exists is to bring the fixed and mobile world together," Mr Danon said.

The first step along that roadwould be to put mobile functionality onto fixed line handsets with a new text messaging service, which will be available in the first quarter of next year.

Customers, who will need a special text-enabled fixed line handset, will be able to text messages from their mobile phones to BT handsets and vice versa. They will also be able to text messages from BT lines to other BT lines. The messages can be received on the fixed line phone as either a text or voice.

BT has been keen to get back into the mobile market since it demerged its Cellnet mobile phone arm, now called mmO2, two years ago.

Now separately listed, mmO2 continues to provide coverage for BT's business mobile customers although that agreement is due to run out in November.

BT's partner on the residential side is German-owned T-Mobile and that agreement expires after a certain call volume has been reached - leaving BT free to partner with others.

The predecessor to BT Mobile Home Plan was 'Mobile Sense' - a limited mobile offering launched by the company last year which was sold over the internet. This will now be swallowed up by the new service.