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BT, Voda confirm mobile link-up

Fixed-mobile convergence now 'reality'

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BT has confirmed that it is to hook up with one-time rival Vodafone to offer punters a new phone product that blurs the boundaries between fixed line and services. The UK's dominant fixed line telco hopes the prospect of this converged fixed-mobile service will help it generate £1bn in revenues a year.

For BT, the tie-up with Vodafone means an end to its current mobile relationships with mmO2 and T-Mobile. For punters, it means that they won't have to have two separate phones for fixed line and mobile calls. Confirming the launch of Project Bluephone before the end of the year, punters will be able to use a single handset that can switch without interruption between fixed and mobile networks.

As a result, customers will just need one phone and one number for their fixed and mobile calls. If they're within range of their home/business phone, the call is carried by BT. If they move outside of the range of their home service, the phone automatically switches to Voda's mobile network.

So far 50 people have taken part in Project Bluephone and a "soft launch" of more than 1,000 people has been scheduled for the summer. The full product launch is expected at the end of the year.

Said Steve Andrews, BT Group chief of mobility and convergence: "There has been a lot of talk about fixed and mobile convergence but, from later this year, it will be here from BT. We have moved from future vision to reality."

BT's re-entry into the mobile market after it spun off its own mobile division, mmO2, has so far been disappointing. It has only managed to recruit 55,000 consumers and 115,000 business punters, although BT insists customer numbers are growing by 20,000 a month.

BT doesn't anticipate that the tie-up with Vodafone will stir up any regulatory problems. ®

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