It's already been quite the week for the UK's mobile battleground, with Three UK's owner Hutchison Whampoa announcing its plan to acquire O2 for a cool £10 billion. And today, confirming recent rumours, BT is ready to re-enter mobile ten years after offloading its shares in O2 and getting out of the game. BT is pursuing its own, mammoth acquisition of EE, of course, but while it waits on regulatory approval, it's tapping EE's network under an MVNO agreement penned way back in 2013. BT is now part of the quad-play club, and like fellow members Virgin Media and TalkTalk, it's going after the price-conscious consumer with a trio of SIM-only plans.
Staying out of the messy business of subsidized handsets (for now at least), BT's starting out with a light buffet of three different 12-month contracts, detailed in the table below.
|Price per month||Minutes||Texts||4G Data||Price for broadband customers|
The £25 per month tariff is particularly alluring, with a whopping 20GB 4G data cap, but the most basic plan can also be had for as little as £5 per month if you're already a BT broadband customer. Because what's the point of being a quad-play provider if you can't use discounts to push other products? Broadband customers can also add up to five discounted mobile plans to a single bill, in case the whole family needs kitting out. Minutes, texts and data aren't all you get for your monthly spend, mind, with access to BT's network of five million WiFi hotspots and free BT Sport available through its mobile app. The provider is also keen to mention it offers parental controls, monthly spending caps, and the ability to move freely between tariffs without having to renew your contract.
Interestingly, if you're neither a BT broadband nor TV customer, the £10 per month SIM is effectively the cheapest way to access BT's sports channels. Ignoring the SIM entirely, the cheapest alternative is adding the channels to a Sky subscription for an extra £13.50 per month (Virgin Media charges £15 per month). A BT Mobile SIM only lets you access the BT Sport mobile apps, mind, so you'll need a Chromecast or some other workaround to push channels to the big screen.
For now, BT is starting out by dipping its toe back into mobile with a manageable portfolio of 12-month, SIM-only plans. "The announcement is the first step in BT's consumer mobile strategy, which will develop over the coming years," the announcement states. Things are likely to develop more rapidly when/if BT completes its acquisition of EE, but no doubt the new quad-play provider is keeping a keen eye on the competition. With Three UK's owner out to acquire O2, Sky set to become the next quad-play provider by launching its own mobile offering, and Vodafone getting into the broadband business again and possibly TV, the foreseeable future will be chock-full of change. Hopefully to the benefit of us lot looking for a cheap package that covers all our needs.