BT offers Wi-Fi based mobile broadband

BT has tried again with a mobile broadband package that uses Wi-Fi to provide outdoor services to its existing ADSL customers. At £30 a month, the price could be a barrier for non-BT customers, but it could be popular as a £5 extra for people already paying for BT broadband.

BT Total Broadband Anywhere includes a dual-mode HTC S620 or S710 smartphone, with a BT client that handles web and email over Wi-Fi when at a BT OpenZone hotspot or at home, or over GPRS elsewhere. The package could be seen as a second try at the convergence market where BT's Fusion service failed, but is launching into a more favourable environment, according to BT and commentators.

The package is Blackberry-like, with built-in mobile email, and costs £30 a month, after an initial three month period at £24. The package includes 10MB of GPRS data when not within Wi-Fi coverage, and fifty minutes and fifty texts. More expensive bundles are available. The deal also includes a lot of other bundled stuff including the bundled Fon VoIP service and secure online storage.

Although the package costs more than the combination of a low-cost ADSL service and a mobile broadband product, or a "free broadband" bundle from a mobile provider it could do well, said Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis. "This is very much a tool to offer to BT's existing subscribers. They've looked at existing subscribers and want to offer them more and get more money for it."

In other words, this is not a mobile offering, but an extension to broadband, aimed at customers who are likely to pay a premium - the package is only £5 more a month than they pay for the top options of BT broadband. "BT customers are conservative and likely to focus on ease of use and a feeling of security," said Bubley.

"BT has regained its crown as the number one broadband provider, in the face of the most intense advertising and marketing by people who are giving broadband away for free or very cheap," said BT spokesman Adam Liversage. With sixty percent of customers currently going for the top two packages, a high proportion of the 250,000 subscribers the company adds each quarter could simply tick the box for Total Broadband Anywhere, he said.

"People may take this as a second device - a consumer equivalent of a Blackberry," said Bubley. "They won't bin their Nokia N95, but they might do this instead of trying to configure email on their Orange phone." All the same, he pointed out the gaps: there is a narrow choice of not-very new handsets, and no 3G data. "It surprises me they aren't bundling a 3G dongle - they have 3G capability in their MVNO deal with Vodafone, but not they aren't pushing it to consumers."

The handset choice is limited because BT is loading its own client software, Bubley said: "I would like to see them do a Symbian variant and maybe an iPhone."

This story, "BT offers Wi-Fi based mobile broadband" was originally published by


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon