Advanced Television

BT unveils converged network vision

May 16, 2018

By Colin Mann

The ‘Consumer’ Business Unit of BT Group – comprising BT, EE and Plusnet – has unveiled a new converged network vision which it says will bring together the best of broadband, mobile and Wi-Fi to provide seamless connectivity for customers across the UK. BT also revealed a deal to carry Amazon Prime video on its BT TV service

“BT runs the UK’s most advanced mobile and broadband networks, but our customers demand better connections, and the best service no matter where they are,” noted Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer business. “We’re investing across BT, EE and Plusnet so that we can provide our customers with the widest choice of products and services, on the best networks, and with the best service in the UK.”

Allera said that with customers using more data in more places than ever before, leading to a need to change the face of networks in the UK, noting that this was why BT and EE came together. “A broadband company and a mobile company. A broadband network and a mobile network. As an industry, you’ll hear us talk a lot about this as ‘convergence’. It means ‘bringing things together’. Bringing together our networks, bring together our teams. Bringing together our ideas. Bringing together our content. Convergence for us is all about bringing the best of everything we do in one place, together. We’ve already brought our teams together; now we’re going to bring our networks together,” he explained.

“We’re beginning our journey to create one converged, smart network built on our world-leading fixed and mobile networks – going beyond 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi and ultrafast broadband to seamlessly connect our customers wherever they are to the things that matter most to them,”

Consumer is now bringing together its market leading mobile, broadband and Wi-Fi networks into one smart, digital network that will give customers seamless connectivity wherever they go. The new converged, smart network – which will be the first of its kind in the UK – is scheduled to be completed in 2022 and will enable a new era of connectivity for the UK, claims the telco.

As part of the initiative, Consumer will make ultrafast broadband with speeds up to 314Mbps available to even more homes, up from more than 1 million homes eligible BT Consumer customers today. BT’s Ultrafast broadband comes with a guarantee of speeds of more than 100Mbps. EE will offer ultrafast broadband to customers during the summer of 2018.

In addition, new products and services are being launched that give customers the best of the UK’s leading mobile and fixed networks to keep their homes and families connected.

BT is launching BT Plus, bringing together home broadband, mobile and Wi-Fi capabilities into one converged plan, with one simple bill. BT Plus customers will benefit from the fastest speeds from BT on broadband and mobile. BT’s Keep Connected Promise means that if ever there is a fault with a customer’s home broadband, BT enables unlimited data on their BT mobile plans and will send a 4G Wi-Fi Mini Hub with unlimited data so the customer can stay connected while their broadband is repaired or installed.

EE is launching new converged ultrafast home broadband plans over broadband and 4G, which include 4GEE Backup and Home Move, keeping customers connected if there are issues with their connection or when they’re moving house. EE broadband customers also enjoy data boosts on their EE mobile plan, with up to 20GB of mobile data that they can gift to family members on the same account.

At a launch event in south London, EE showcased a prototype for a new category of converged broadband – EE Hybrid Broadband technology. The UK’s hybrid home broadband combines BT’s superfast broadband network with EE’s 4G network to give customers consistent and reliably fast broadband speeds, even in areas with traditionally slow broadband speeds or at peak times. The hybrid technology ensures customers are always connected, as one technology will take over the other in the unlikely event of a fault.

Allera also revealed an ‘Open super aggregator’ TV strategy to deliver what he suggested was an “unrivalled” choice of content. BT TV will include the Amazon Video app in addition to Netflix and customers will be able to access NOW TV from 2019, giving them the what he suggested is the widest range of content on any set top box in the UK.

BT will be the first major UK TV platform to offer Prime Video through its set-top boxes, allowing Prime Members to access thousands of TV episodes and movies, including award-winning Prime Originals and exclusive series such as The Grand Tour, The Man in the High Castle, Lucifer, and Vikings. The new BT TV App will allow customers to download and play content on the move for the first time, and will also be available on many more TV and digital platforms including Samsung Smart TVs, Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

In time for the next football season, EE customers will be able to access new BT Sport app features – including the ability to cast direct from their mobile to their TV with inclusive data. EE will also offer Google Chromecast as well as Apple TV to make it even easier for customers to share content from their mobile to the big screen. EE customers will also be able to access a range of new mobile TV experiences throughout the year, with more details to be announced.

“Following last week’s disappointing results, this strategy update sets the course for the new consolidated BT Consumer Brands division led by Allera,” notes Paolo Pescatore, VP Multiplay & Media, CCS Insight.

“This growing unit is very well positioned to be a leader in the changing UK multiplay market. This is a good first step but further changes and tough decisions still await Mr Allera and his management team.”

“BT suggests the new structure and strategy provides better clarity on the future direction of the consumer segment which has been in limbo for some time. Overall, there were few surprises with the strategy for the new Consumer unit. Consistent with the group strategy, the consumer unit will continue with a multi-brand approach, heavily focussed on convergence by exploiting BT Group’s vast network assets, to deliver new convergent products while focusing on customer retention.”

“The slew of more than 20 announcements was impressive and reinforced BT’s commitment to be a leader in converged offerings delivering innovative services. Ultimately, Mr Allera wants to offer users the best connected strategy which is underpinned by convergence. A key element is its ‘single smart converged network’ combining BT’s vast fixed and mobile assets. We have reservations about the use of ‘smart’ as a descriptor. The ultimate goal will be to offer users ubiquitous coverage regardless of connection type inside the home or while out and about.”

“Encouragingly, Marc and his team are taking a broader role beyond mobile and individual consumers and more about household telecom requirements.

“The three distinct brands remain and for now clearly cater for specific segments. However, we reiterate our belief that at least one will be dropped in the medium to long term. More so with these latest announcements which will see a greater presence of the BT brand on the high street and the first combined convergent product led by the BT brand, BT Plus.”

“The announcement of BT Plus, marks the launch of the UK’s first fully converged service offering. Positioned as a premium offering, it is a modest start but we expect more competitive offers to emerge.”

“Arguably, the biggest partnership announcement is with Amazon. BT will be the first UK telco to offer Amazon Prime video to its customers. The move to support Amazon Prime video positions BT TV as an aggregator of content services including Netflix and Now TV from next year.  We believe that this will turn around its fortunes given that BT TV has recorded losses for the last two quarters and subscriber growth over the last couple of years has been lacklustre.”

While EE will spearhead the unit’s foray into the smart home landscape by taking an open approach in supporting the leading platforms. EE should be applauded for its agnostic approach to smart home solutions but the connected home is a hugely complex and fragmented area with uncertain returns on investment.”

“The customer is at the heart of this strategy. Marc’s drive for simplicity and focus on the customer will help increase loyalty among the more than 30 million users currently served by the combined brands in the UK. This is consistent with the approach he took when leading EE and he is now extending this into the larger consumer unit.”

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