BT insists MVNO project is on course despite glitch claims

BT denies reports its plans to set up as an MVNO have been pushed back after running into technical problems

BT has denied that its return to the mobile phone market, more than a decade after it sloughed off O2, is being pushed further back after reports emerged of technical problems holding up the process.

The operator first announced its intention to set up as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in October 2013, after signing a contract with EE to access its 3G and 4G networks.

According to the Telegraph, the launch of the service could be pushed back to spring 2015 because BT’s technical teams have hit difficulties with a key part of the plan, which involved using Wi-Fi networks to carry voice and data as opposed to a 4G network.

It had also hoped to use customer-owned Home Hub routers to set up mini 4G masts, similar to its Fon service which uses a portion of Home Hub bandwidth to provide public Wi-Fi hotspots.

This practice landed it in trouble in 2012, however, when a Computer Weekly investigation found BT was automatically enabling the feature for new customers without seeking permission.

The Telegraph said it was told that BT had run into difficulties handing off voice and data traffic seamlessly between Wi-Fi and EE’s network.

Citing an unnamed source, the paper claimed that BT’s reasoning for seeking complementary technical solutions meant project costs could be cut.

BT also owns two lots of 15MHz of 2.6GHz and one lot of 20MHz of 2.6GHz 4G spectrum itself, but has so far steered clear of committing to running its own network over it.

A BT spokesperson told Computer Weekly that the operator was not falling behind schedule.

“We have always been very clear that it will take the best part of two years to develop our consumer femtocell service, and this remains the case,” said the spokesperson.

Starting an MVNO business will see BT going into more direct competition with its former room-mate, the Post Office, which announced in July 2014 its own plans to launch a consumer service running over EE’s network.

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