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

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 …

BT is making all these changes. But they fail to mention why through any of it.

Could it be that they've been coasting along for far too long and that apathy has come back to bite?

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Anonymous Coward

We'll it's pretty obvious. If you have 3 divisions with overlapping functions, it is pointless to keep all three.

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Makes a mockery of the CMA decision that EE and BT operate is distinct and different markets

What's incredulous here is BT was allowed to takeover EE on the basis, the CMA (Competiton and Markets Authority) said that BT and EE operate in distinct and different markets and there was no overlap between the two businesses. In a word, what now appear incredulous blatant/utter lies by the CMA.

Who are these technically illiterate anonymous folk that sit on the CMA making these decisions?

It's about time they were pushed along with most of BT's useless regulator - Ofcom. Far too many cosy deals of late, between these three parties taking place, poorly implemented, restricting competition.

It was utterly obvious at the time BT and EE businesses are intrinsically linked in terms of tiered fixed-line/mobile data pricing and that per MB data pricing for mobile would be artificially kept alive by this deal (assuming the mobile operators play their cards right with Ofcom).

It's now unlikely BT will roll out of 1Gbps+ Ultrafast Broadband services anytime soon if it makes their slower EE mobile broadband usage somewhat obsolete. i.e. anything over 5-10x the ratio of current mobile data speeds to fixed line data speeds. i.e. if mobile data rates are 33Mbps, fixed line Broadband will stay max'd at 'up to' 330Mbps etc (even assuming an increase in FTTP rollouts capable of much higher speeds). BT/EE's Mobile/Fixed-line data speed increases over time are now 'joined at the hip', intrinsically.

By merging the two companies the future increase in data speeds of fixed-line broadband will be restricted/tiered. Speeds are likely increase more slowly over time (than having two separate companies of BT and EE) and very likely stay 'tiered' pricing because the fixed line data speeds 'tiers' will be intrinsically linked (by BT/EE) to take into account the slower mobile data speeds/usage priced 'tiers' of the EE mobile.

In essence, the BT/EE pricing model going forward won't do anything to jeopardize the lower mobile data rates 'throughput' of EE (and the mobile data usage), in term of increasing fixed line data speeds (to 1Gbp+ speeds), to the point of making (non-necessary) mobile data usage obselete in the process.

CMA:

"BT Group plc (BT) and EE Limited (EE) operate largely in separate areas with BT strong in supplying fixed communications services (voice, broadband and pay TV), EE strong in supplying mobile communications services, and limited overlap between them in both categories of service. BT (including Openreach) also provides many fixed services to other communications providers, including backhaul services to mobile communications providers such as EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. "

"the CMA inquiry group has decided that the merger is not expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) in any market or markets in the UK, including in relation to the supply of retail mobile, wholesale mobile, mobile backhaul, wholesale broadband and retail broadband services."

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Holmes

Re: Makes a mockery of the CMA decision that EE and BT operate is distinct and different markets

>> Who are these technically illiterate anonymous folk that sit on the CMA making these decisions?

It is time for you to understand that there is no "good" and "bad" people, just people with economic interests and different degrees of power. Whether they are literate or not is a different matter with no bearing whatsoever on the business at hand.

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Coat

Re: Makes a mockery of the CMA decision that EE and BT operate is distinct and different markets

I quite enjoy skipping between BT, EE & Plusnet for my broadband & taking advantage of whichever sweetener they're offering in the knowledge that my broadband will still be 80mbps down & 20mbps up & that my 4G will be available on Bodmin Moor in case I get bored of the scenery; which is unlikely. Living in the Republic of Kernow has its advantages, but it's full so don't even think about moving here any time soon.

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Mr gafa

It about time some lateral thinking was applied you had the best work force of customer care they ever wanted but they of them rid of them for contractors and foreign company and top heavy management!

Serve them right for loose the dedicated employed work force.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Makes a mockery of the CMA decision that EE and BT operate is distinct and different markets

Good luck switching between from BTPlus, to er, BTPlus to er, BTPlus every 18 months to save a few pennies in the future then. How long before we're back to 18 month rollover contracts too?

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Re: Makes a mockery of the CMA decision that EE and BT operate is distinct and different markets

" Living in the Republic of Kernow has its advantages, but it's full so don't even think about moving here any time soon."

I quite agree. Keep out the incomers - now that I am settled!

Sadly I am just too far out of my village to get fibre, but c.20Mbps is OK for most functions. I'm not greatly interested in streaming 4K.

I thought about Devon, but the broadband coverage there is about as good as it is in the Irish Sea. Many towns seemed to have a maximum speed of 2-4Mbps when I was looking to move. Cornwall, with EU money, is far better provided. No fish, but better broadband.

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Re: Makes a mockery of the CMA decision that EE and BT operate is distinct and different markets

"What's incredulous here..."

@AJ - I think you meant 'incredible' - 'incredulous' means an indication of, or displaying, a lack of credulity, or in other words, being skeptical.

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Re: Makes a mockery of the CMA decision that EE and BT operate is distinct and different markets

<<Who are these technically illiterate anonymous folk that sit on the CMA making these decisions?>>

The same people who run Ofcom, people with personal and financial ties to serious stakeholders in the BT business obviously.

BT as a business should have been broken up decades ago but financial contributions to the right people see it "protected".

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Anonymous Coward

BT Plus

"BT Plus is intended to bring together home broadband, mobile and Wi-Fi capabilities into one converged plan."

At £80 a month which is getting close to £1000 per year they are going to have to provide a lot of "free" phones to make that an appealing offer.

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Re: BT Plus

I solved that problem another way.

I don't use BT for anything, and my broadband is a mobile 4G router.

Broadband, mobile and Wifi in one box, from one provider, with one bill.

Honestly, it's just another show of how when you buy something up, you should integrate it and brand it with your main brand, and if you own several types of business, you should do your best to merge them all together rather than break them into bits and spin them off all the time.

An ISP, a telephony provider and a mobile cellular network should all just be part of one big brand/company, rather than faffing about spinning off Cellnet/O2/etc. and then having to provide the same services to them but now on the basis of entirely different underlying infrastructure.

The fact that those three are ALL so similar nowadays that they are moving to entirely-IP networks for even home telephony just shows you that you should have done that decades ago when it was still in its infacy and saved yourself a lot of money in the first place.

BT seem to actually be making some sensible choices for once. Pity it's about 30 years too late, and only because they are losing money. I mean, bringing your customer services back home? Obviously GDPR/Brexit related, but other companies worked out 10 years ago that they needed to do that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BT Plus

"Broadband, mobile and Wifi in one box, from one provider, with one bill."

A serious question, what is your allowance?

Bearing on mind my kids (and to a large extent myself) use nothing but catch up and youtube, our download amount hits close on 100gb a month.

However as I can see the mast from my place 4G is actually faster than my FTTC speed.

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Re: BT Plus

Reliable broadband costs.

I use BT Residential. I'm paying £75.99/month for 300Mbps FTTP, including line rental. No usage cap.

On top I'm paying £9.50 for the unlimited anytime calls package

£5 a month on top covers my mobile - free allowances are fine for my needs.

Doesn't seem too bad to me. Might save a few quid at renewal and drop the 300Mbps down to 100. But it is rather nice to have! Recently had some large 1.1GB MYSQL dump files to shift around - download in 3mins, upload in about 20. Beats the old ISDN!

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Re: BT Plus

I'm with Three (not my first choice). I don't pay much (£30 a month) but I have a 40Gb allowance.

However:

- I pay month-to-month. It's £25/month if I sign up to an annual contract.

- It doesn't include Netflix and a handful of popular sites (SnapChat, etc.) at all (unlimited usage of those).

- Vodafone have a very similar deal where it's £25 a month, 50Gb, and for £7 extra it doesn't include ANYTHING you've heard of - YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Spotify, Prime Video, etc.).

I imagine the latter is more than sufficient for any household whatsoever - the heavy stuff is video for most people and removing that from the allowance by buying a "multimedia pass" (or whatever it's called) saves you an awful lot of data.

I didn't go with Vodafone as they were too stupid to organise a SIM and then their website won't let me in again because it thinks I already have an account but I can't order another SIM or sort it out except in a store and I can't be bothered. They were my first choice because it's so viable, but Three works just fine.

Of course, you have to buy a Wifi router too and it's not at all difficult to find one that tracks usage on the screen, or limits it to certain people / amounts, etc. I have a little battery-powered Huawei thing (instant power-cut backup!) and it shows usage on the front screen all the time and refuses to let you go over-data (as does the Three account itself, so you don't get nasty shocks).

If/when I do go over, it lets me piggyback off any other Wifi network seamlessly - so all the devices, including laptops with Steam, Chromecast, etc. are all set up to connect to the router, and the router can actually switch and get its data from my phone, a hotspot, my neighbours, etc. with one setting change.

I also get a consistent good speed - small enough latency to game over (I play CS), more than enough to stream a movie in HD, do fast downloads, browse the web etc. and the wifi it offers can connect 10 devices by default and get full 802.11n speeds (e.g. I have a Chromecast that can stream from the laptop, SteamLink, CCTV DVR, etc. and friends join the wireless when they come round).

You have to be a LITTLE careful, but with that Vodafone package I imagine I wouldn't even need to consider use of it at all.

Worst case, I stick my phone in hotspot mode, the router picks up that network and it takes priority, and I can carry on but using the spare data on my phone instead.

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Re: BT Plus

Nothing to do with brexit, none of BTs offshore consumer call centres are in Europe.

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Need to go to store.

Be very careful in your dealings with any Mobile phone business which requires you to go to a store to resolve things. If you are having that problem and cannot access the website but need to go to a store, are you certain you are not being charged in their records for the service they are convinced that you have?

Bitter experience says that might be safer.

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Silver badge

Re: BT Plus

>I'm with Three (not my first choice).

Is that because it is the only one with coverage for your home?

Hence ruling out the EE offerings (100GB pm for £45 and 200GB pm for £60).

Whats your backup ifwhen the Three network disappears, as it does from time-to-time - as does the EE network. Aside: I primarily use EE, but use Three as my backup, so for the last two years not been without Internet, just that some days things perform slightly differently...

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Re: BT Plus

Sorry if I missed a reference, but where do you find those EE offerings?

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DJV
Silver badge
Facepalm

Call Centres

PHB: Let's outsource the call centres to save money.

Replacement PHB (18 months to 2 years later): Uh, oh, people are complaining about the call centres. Let's bring them back in house.They were costing too much so it will probably be cheaper.

Next Replacement PHB (a further 18 months to 2 years later): Hmm, outsourcing our call centres will save us money.

Next Next Replacement PHB (yet another 18 months to 2 years later): Oh dear, complaints, complaints, complaints - that really wasn't a good idea. We'd be better off running them in house.

Repeat ad infinitum...

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So to sum up...

The new strategy amounts to "Never mind the quality, feel the width..."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So to sum up...

That "BT feeling" of spreading Tesco value Strawberry Jam thinly over two halves of stale sponge cake mix you found cooked on auto, you'd left in your oven from two weeks ago, hoping it desperately might still taste of something, but knowing full well it won't.

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The issue here is that BT suck pretty hard. Most people only begrudgingly pay them a line rental because we have no option, their service sucks and their customer services are famously terrible. Frankly the only reason we even have a phone line based ADSL service is because the only alternative is Virgin Media Cable and they are even worse than BT.

There is no way I would take a WiFi/4G switching service from them as they will screw it up, badly, and then blame the customer for it.

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Silver badge

If it involves one of their shitty routers (sorry, "hubs"), then it's going to be unreliable and slow. People want choice and hate a) being locked in and b) paying for something they don't need or use. All they're doing is polishing a very old turd.

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Anonymous Coward

Bring back Buzby!

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Anonymous Coward

So the end of internal BT competition, by switching betw BTRetail, EE and Plus.net every 18 months.

Sounds like BT are trying to curtail consumers switching every 18 months between the three BT Group providers (BTRetail, EE and Plus.net).

This will increase their profits by cutting switching rates, forcing consumers onto standard pricing (roughly 50% more), if they stay within overall BT Group.

Will we see Now (TV) Broadband and Sky Broadband merge too? Likely.

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Silver badge

Re: So the end of internal BT competition, by switching betw BTRetail, EE and Plus.net every 18...

Do people specifically change between those three providers, or just to whoever's got the best offer at the time if ringing up at the end of the contract period didn't work?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the end of internal BT competition, by switching betw BTRetail, EE and Plus.net every 18...

Well if they did, BT consumers can't in future.

(I have friends that won't use Sky 'Hillsborough' or TalkTalk ' losing customer data' but perceive BT 'shit CS' pay their taxes).

I think BT have been somewhat lucky, most of the competitors have destroyed their own reputation by the own actions. BT would be doing a hell of a lot worse if the big competitors were even half competent.

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Silver badge

So am I a BT customer now?

I switched to Plusnet from Virgin media about nine months ago,.... the service has been fine, it works, it provides enough bandwidth to stream from the usual sources, and it's twenty quid a month. My fear is that in the long term, as BT try to save costs and simplify offerings, I'll end up getting stuff bundled into my package that I don't want, and certainly don't want to pay extra for. Like sports,... <shudder>.

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Re: So am I a BT customer now?

Yup, you are a BT Customer. Plusnet is BT with a Yorkshire accent. Same for John Lewis phone service too isn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So am I a BT customer now?

Despite knowing that they are the same company, I just moved my line rental from BT to plusnet because it was cheaper. I have no idea why that is the case...

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BT need more sympathy, they are running a huge lossmaking network with obligations to provide service in uneconomic rural areas. Any real profit goes to pay off their pension deficit. The cable and LLU rivals can cherry pick the most profitable customers. Murdoch and Sky have the political lobbying power to influence Ofcom and put unfiar pressure on Openreach to reduce prices, which makes it harder for BT to make the case to invest in infrastructure for the future.

They are making massive redundancies and even selling off their HQ building to cut costs. They also have a fibre first strategy now, so I think they are heading in the right direction.

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Anonymous Coward

BT's "Fibre first", with a very wishy-washy BT definition of what 'Fibre' is.

That's not any fibre definition, it's BT's wishy-washy 'up to' 'fibre first' definition. (to plagiarise M&S)

Endorsed by weasels ASA, Ofcom.

What hope does the uninformed consumer have?

Let's have some proper transparency on Ofcom speed/latency tests.

Sync speeds, local FTTC congestion/capacity left, Exchange congestion, ISP/BTWholesale Internode congestion, London Linx exchange congestion because the 'up to' copper carcass obfuscation is harming consumers choosing faster-tiered speeds (40Mbps/52Mbps/80Mbps/G.fast 100Mbps+)

Consumers can't work out if their broadband will improve subscribing to a faster tier, especially at peak times. The current Ofcom speed tests tell them absolutely nothing, especially if ISPs 'game' the speed tests and they obviously do. (Single thread downloads especially so).

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National digital infrastructure should not have to be encumbered by historical employee pension commitments. That needs resolved and taken off the table, as much as technical delivery.

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I am, reluctantly, a BT customer. Why? Because in my experience, BT have been best for just letting the OpenReach engineers do what needs doing without strict adherence to a jobsheet once they are onsite.

I work from home, in a very network dependent role. If I had an observation about internet in the UK, and this applies to pretty much every ISP I have looked at, it's this: Try finding a sanely priced 50Mbit symetric connection. As far as I could tell, outside a very select number of towns , the best place in the UK for that would be the rural NW! I have seen this in three different locations, and in all three of the FTTC VDSL has been as good as anything else.

If you start looking at uploads, there really is nothing to choose between Virgin Media and the various VDSL resellers.

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Anonymous Coward

> "OpenReach engineers do what needs doing without strict adherence to a jobsheet once they are onsite."

Whilst I am no fan of BT, I will grant you that.

Once you finally manage to get one on your doorstep, the Openreach engineers (or, more precisely, the "old school" ones, not the new third-party contractors) are indeed generally pretty competent and hard working.

But the rest of BT and the quality of the services it provides ? Poor as ever.

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Holmes

on-shore call-centres...

...you know that means robots right?

AI Chatbots are now "good enough" to replace all the off-shore ones. So no more hiring here either.

Internet of Twats. Yay!

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Facepalm

Excellent! More traffic passing through their rotten Home Hub...

So that'll work well, won't it?

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Happy plus.net customer

This will be a real shame if plus.net might potentially disappear. I am happy to pay extra for someone at the call centre who knows what the are talking about and doesn’t merely read off a script in a thick Indian accent. I originally was going to sign up with BT but after dealing with their Indian call center staff I would never touch BT’s regular broadband service with a bargepole.

Price really isn’t everything.

Some customers will pay for good service.

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Silver badge

"Some customers will pay for good service."

And that's why I went to Zen. Worked out only a 5er a month more than Plusnet (I was a loyal customer for the last 6 years so they were ripping me off).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Happy plus.net customer

"if plus.net might potentially disappear"

I think its a question of *when*, not *if*, my friend.

You must remember, BT only really bought Plusnet for its CRM system, the WorkSpace platform. WorkSpace is a critical part of what BT needs to deliver what it does for its gravy train customers (WorkSpace is, for example, a critical component of BT's Teleworker product that is widely deployed around major corporates).

BT Retail don't really give much of a toss about the small broadband users. The Plusnet acquisition was very much with the view to keep the fingers in the corporate pie.

The fact they got a broadband brand to milk that was not tarnished by the letters "BT" was merely an added bonus, and they are obviously milking that for all its worth. But one day they'll get bored.

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Re: Happy plus.net customer

Never knew that before. Is that genuinely a fact or are you just being cynical? I could believe either option tbh.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Happy plus.net customer

110% Genuine Fact.

Proof of fact:

(1) BT's published "reasons for the offer" at the time:

"PlusNet benefits from an industry leading internet based service platform (Workplace)."

(2) Plusnet 2005 financial report:

"PlusNet is BT Retail's preferred partner for projects demanding automated customer relationship management, which is fundamental to BT Teleworker. The Teleworker product, which was launched by BT in August 2003, has been adopted by over 30 of BT's blue-chip corporate customers. BT intends to accelerate growth in the number of Teleworker end-users in 2005. "

(3) Leaked email from ex-CEO (as published on El Reg - https://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/08/08/lee_strafford_email/?page=2):

You will note that (a) Top of the plan was "finish the development of and upgrade of workplace" (b) Bottom of the plan was "sell the business to BT 2 years later."

In relation to (3) : No doubt BT made their priorities clear to Plusnet. Hence workspace at number one.

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Re: Happy plus.net customer

Cheers mate :)

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Decisions

are usually always made to benefit the decider.

The statement above covers mergers, take overs, buy outs, restructuring etc. etc.

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