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BT bets farm on consumers: Announces one network to rule 'em all

Puts best face on user biz after miserable results in enterprise

Still smarting from last week's dismal annual results, BT today made a raft of announcements for its consumer group, including a converged broadband and mobile network.

The BT brand will also muscle into 620 EE high street shops to promote its own consumer products, while the biz said it would bring all its call centres back to Blighty to boost its often-criticised customer service record.

Last week, the former state monopoly said it will slash 13,000 jobs, having reported flat or declining sales in all areas of its business - except in BT Consumer, with revenues up 3 per cent to £5bn and EE, where sales increased 4 per to £5.3bn.

Marc Allera, chief executive of EE, was anointed CEO of the BT Consumer business last year, that brought together EE with the existing consumer division to create the £10bn integrated mobile, broadband and pay-TV outfit.

Allera said: “We made some tough choices last week, but we are reinvesting in networks and customer services.”

The announcements were made across its BT, EE and Plusnet brands.

Asked to what extent the strategy was about BT positioning itself as a consumer-focused business (instead of a struggling enterprise company with a flagging share price), Allera said: “What [was] announced last week [about the] company vision and strategy, [showed] convergence is important for enterprise as well.”

BT's consumer converged package "BT Plus" is intended to bring together home broadband, mobile and Wi-Fi capabilities into one converged plan. Plans for a service that can switch between Wi-Fi and 4G depending on the connection have long been talked about.

The package will be launched next week as a premium offering, expecting to come in around £80 per month. Allera said the firm is building a “single core network” intended to support a wider range of converged products will be ready by 2020 across BT’s fixed and mobile assets.

Paolo Pescatore, analyst at CCS insight, said: “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.”

“This update provides a much needed boost to the BT Group, given the widespread negative publicity it has endured in recent months. More importantly the new structure and strategy provides better clarity on the future direction of the consumer segment which has been in limbo for some time.”

Allera insisted the move to put a BT presence in EE high street shops will complement EE's products, rather than competing with it via BT Mobile.

However, such a move raises a questionmark over the future of the EE brand. Pescatore said: "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.”

Among its many consumer ambitions, BT also announced a partnership with Amazon for its telly services, already having a partnership with Netflix and previously announcing a tie-up with its rival Sky for Now TV.

“The move to support Amazon Prime video positions BT TV as an aggregator of content services,” said Pescatore. “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.” ®

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