BT has begun a tender for an operator partner to provide its own branded 4G services, both to UK consumers and businesses.
“We can confirm we’re looking for a fresh partnership with a mobile operator,” said the UK incumbent in a statement. “We won some excellent 4G spectrum just recently so it makes sense for us to explore the new opportunities that 4G presents. We have a strong position in the Wi-Fi market and we are looking to build on that.”
BT added that it is rolling out fibre at “breakneck speed” and that “it’s obvious that customers want decent speeds when they’re out and about as well as at home”.
According to the Financial Times, BT’s tender for an operator partnership may well see it hook up with O2, the unit BT spun off twelve years ago.
O2, now owned by Telefonica, did not acquire any 2.6GHz spectrum in the UK 4G auction held this year. However, BT, as a surprise auction participant, scooped up 2x15MHz (FDD) and 20MHz (TDD) chunks of the 2.6GHz frequency band for £186 million.
That opens up the possibility, speculate analysts in the FT report, of a potential trade in frequencies between the two firms as part of a partnership deal.
BT is making a concerted push into fixed-line triple say services, which includes heavy investment in sports content for BT Vision, the company’s IPTV service. The addition of mobile would open the door for BT to make a quad-play offering, which has proven popular in some markets.
BT has had an MVNO agreement with Vodafone for nine years, targeting business customers, but an FT source says this agreement was nullified following Vodafone’s acquisition of Cable & Wireless Worldwide – a fixed-network rival to BT with a string of enterprise customers.
Vodafone is believed to be rebidding for the BT MVNO contract, but now faces competition from EE and O2.