BT Consumer to launch converged hybrid fixed and mobile broadband solutions
The future is bright the future is one of three arms of the BT Consumer division for millions of customers in the UK. Today saw the launch of new propositions and products for BT, EE and Plusnet who all operate under the BT Consumer umbrella.
The most exciting is notably the BT Plus range which is based around VDSL2, FTTP, G.fast and 4G technologies and will be a new product tier for BT. The quick key points from BT Plus are:
- Converged access to fibre and 4G, e.g. if the fixed line is slow then the 4G signal will be used to boost the speed therefore helping to avoid buffering problems etc
- Service will be unlimited fixed line data and double the mobile allowance for whatever BT Mobile plan you have
- New Keep Connected Promise, so if the fixed line breaks and you report a fault your 4G allowance is set to unlimited and after 24 hours a 4G mini hub to keep the home online (presume if you have a hybrid router already no need for the mini hub)
- For ultrafast areas the 100 Mbps speed guarantee will continue to apply
- Changes to bt.com to make it simpler to navigate
The converged solution is a fully bonded solution unlike the many 4G backup options that exist in third party routers today. The hybrid is not finished yet, but is expected to launch in 2019 and by then we will hopefully have pricing and detail on how the 4G usage allowance will be managed e.g. you may want to save allowance to watch a new movie in Ultra HD rather than the HD your fixed connection will usually support (BT Sport looks set to be zero rated on data). Also families will need ways to guard against the kids downloading 100's of Gigabytes onto their consoles and leaving the family with no mobile data for the next 3 weeks of a month.
For BT Consumer as a whole the plan is continue bringing customer service roles back to the UK and Ireland so that by the end of 2020 100% of calls will be handled onshore. For those who value a face to face meeting BT products and advice will be expanding very quickly into EE stores on the High Street with 620 stores currently and expansion for more.
BT TV is to include the Amazon Prime video app in addition to the existing Netflix app and in 2019 NOW TV will join the set-top box and with subscriptions managed all through the single BT bill and the ability to search for content across all the apps on BT TV it has the potential to simplify the complicated world of finding content.
EE which has a younger audience that see their mobile device as the most important device is set to launch in London at first a partnership with Enjoy that will let people have same-day smartphone delivery and an expert set-up service. A new family plan will allow people to gift their data (up to 20GB) to other members of the family therefore making usage allowances more flexible. The gifting gives parents a new power in the form of 'digital pocket money' so kids can be rewarded for doing chores, good grades.
EE will join the ultrafast broadband arena, with the launch of its own ultrafast services (based on G.fast and FTTP availability), no pricing yet. The EE speed checker will also recommend whichever service offers the fastest speeds so if the 4GEE Home service with external antenna is going to be faster than fixed line services it will highlight this option and there will be hybrid options too. EE is also set to pioneer Augmented Reality support via its mobile app i.e. with the customers permission access your phones camera so they can see what you do and therefore cut through the confusion over what cable goes into what socket etc.
The EE hybrid solution will support the same backup options as the main BT Plus product but also seems to add a 4GEE Home Move option so that when moving home during the inevitable wait for the fixed line broadband to go live you will have access over the hybrid network.
EE is also positioning itself and its High Street stores as the place for smart home devices and to help people wanting to automate their homes there will be options to spread the cost of devices by adding them to their mobile plan with 0% APR on the payments and in life support from EE.
EE customers who feel they are missing out on BT Sport are also set to get access to a new BT Sport App which with the right subscription will allow casting from the mobile to devices such as Google Chromecast and Apple TV.
Plusnet had no new fancy products to announce, but there is a promise of a new billing platform shortly which may resolve some of the legacy oddities people report and a new mobile app that will give access to customers bills, customer service and track usage for Plusnet mobile contracts. So while Plusnet is set to expand its number of customer service roles in Sheffield they are aiming to move support to something you can carry around in your pocket on your smartphone.
The most repeated word of the launch was convergence and with 5G just around the corner in 2019, starting down that path today is a good idea the aim of it all is to allow customers to stay constantly connected rather than the mash-up most people suffer today.
On the hybrid fixed line and 4G solution, this will not work in 3G areas so you will need a 4G signal but with an external antenna the number who this will be available to is a lot higher, and while the idea of getting a 300 Mbps ultrafast connection and boosting it with 170 Mbps 4G speeds will excite some a lot there is a cautionary note that the hybrid service is aimed more at boosting those with below average speeds and doing so in as transparent a way as possible. The solution is based on full bonding, so this is not load balancing, full bonding means that a single thread download will use up the combined speeds e.g. 44 Mbps from VDSL2 plus 31 Mbps from 4G to give a combined speed in the 75 Mbps area. Bonding a 300 Mbps connection with an additional 170 Mbps solution is something that will come in the future, but for now it is thought that hardware limitations are an issue, i.e. bonding can be done at these speeds but you need faster processing to handle it smoothly hence why devices like the AAISP Firebrick solution cost more than your usual router.
With the broadband USO rapidly approaching this bonded solution will obviously be ideal, and even if on a 1.5km VDSL2 line and just getting 10 Mbps sync speeds, the ability to add another 10 to 30 Mbps of speed from 4G will mean busy households no longer have to choose between streaming a movie or online gaming but can do both at once.
As and when the products launch we will obviously share the pricing with everyone but for now we know what is set to shift from the development labs into the real world and apparently there are promises of more to come.