BT goes Yahoo with rejigged broadband

The Openworld brand is set for retirement, as BT puts its faith in Yahoo's Web content and services

A new partnership between BT and Yahoo will see the telco's Openworld service rebranded as BT Yahoo.

The deal, announced on Monday, means BT will end its alliances with some existing partners as it plumps for Yahoo's Internet content and security services. This will include antivirus, anti-spam and firewall software and parental controls on Web access, as well as other services not yet launched by Yahoo.

The move, according to BT, is a key part of its strategy to maintain the boom in broadband take-up, although there will also be a BT Yahoo narrowband service. "We realise that if BT's broadband targets are to be achieved we need to offer much more compelling content and services, and to partner with a world-class content provider," Duncan Ingram, managing editor of BT Openworld, told journalists, referring to the telco's goal of reaching two million wholesale ADSL connections by next summer, and five million by 2006. "If you want an easy-to-use Internet experience that gives you rich content from one portal, you'll want this."

Previously, BT Openworld has attempted to compete with rival ISPs by creating its own Web content. It now appears that the telco thinks its best hope of competing with the likes of AOL is to stick to providing high-speed Internet access and customer support and billing, and leave the service side to other companies.

Ingram denied, though, that the new alliance with Yahoo shows that BT's efforts in the content space have failed. "It's about both organisations looking forward at how we drive the take-up of ADSL," he insisted.

BT Yahoo will be launched in September, with existing BT Openworld users being migrated across in stages over a few months. There will be no increase in the monthly subscription cost, which is £29.99 per month for broadband, and users will keep their existing email addresses.

The Openworld brand has had a chequered career over recent years. Dubbed Openwoe by rivals -- and even some BT insiders -- because of its loss-making history, the ISP now boasts 330,000 broadband subscribers.

BT is now in the interesting position of having leapt into bed with both Yahoo and Microsoft, two of the Internet sector's most powerful rivals.

Last November BT and Microsoft launched an alliance to develop broadband applications for both residential and business customers. That deal, though, involved BT Broadband -- the telco's "no-frills" broadband product -- rather than BT Openworld.


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