Lack of consumer 5G-only plan shows BT is serious about convergence

via Flickr ©  Henry Zbyszynski (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © Henry Zbyszynski (CC BY 2.0)

  • UK incumbent launches 5G in 20 towns and cities
  • 5G plans only available to BT Plus and business customers
  • Telco will add converged product Halo into the mix next month

BT has launched 5G mobile services in 20 towns and cities in the UK, but consumers keen to get their hands on a BT 5G phone will have to shell out for a fixed broadband service as well.

As it pledged earlier in the year, the UK incumbent has rolled out 5G to businesses and to customers of its "converged" BT Plus service first. Excuse the inverted commas, but for me a combined fixed broadband and mobile tariff does not constitute convergence. However, it's a step in the right direction and we have a new converged product on the horizon in the shape of Halo, which BT presented a couple of days ago amidst a host of other announcements. It will become clearer just how converged Halo is when the telco releases more details.

Customers who take up BT Plus and 5G plans will be upgraded to Halo when it launches in November, at which time BT Mobile will also start offering an unlimited data plan to replace its current 200 GB consumer plan. For now though, customers who want a BT 5G service can choose four 5G plans ranging from 12 GB of data to the aforementioned 200 GB, and handsets from Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus and OPPO. Prices start at £45 per month.

Plus, of course, the cost of fixed broadband. Because BT has yet to reveal when it will launch 5G for its mobile-only customers, and it could well be that it is in no hurry.

5G gives BT the opportunity to build on its strength as a fixed broadband provider and push the converged agenda in a market that has yet to fully embrace it. The telco is looking to add to its 1 million – as of its March year-end – BT Plus customers, building up a lovely, sticky base of higher-spend BT households.

It is missing very little by holding back on a consumer mobile 5G offer. Let's face it, there's a fair chance that many of the UK's super-keen 5G early adopters have gone with EE anyway.

There have been rumblings in the industry about the fact that BT still runs two brands and the costs associated with that, but in this case it seems to make perfect sense: the BT brand to draw in the household market, playing on the telco's legacy as a fixed broadband and now TV provider; and the EE brand for top-end mobile.

BT's own brand mobile service feels more like a destination for the price-conscious and the brand-loyal. It is difficult to ascertain whether that really is the case since BT does not split out its own-brand mobile numbers from those of EE, but perception matters in this market.

Indeed, that may well explain why "the BT brand is returning to the high street," as the telco revealed on Wednesday. It plans to dual-brand 600 existing EE high street stores in what is being pitched as a customer service exercise, but might well be a bid to boost the brand equity of BT Mobile. Whether that is a precursor to a retirement of the EE name in the fullness of time remains to be seen.

Brands, packages and positioning will all be key as BT pushes ahead with its convergence play. If it gets it right, BT Plus, plus 5G, plus Halo, could prove to be a real plus point for the UK incumbent.

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