BT to use Bluetooth to cut mobile costs

BT to use Bluetooth to cut mobile costs

Summary: The UK's dominant telco unveils its move back into the mobile space, with dual-band Wi-Fi and GSM phones a key part of its future strategy

TOPICS: Networking

BT is working on a method of cutting mobile bills and boosting functionality by letting customers use wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and 802.11b to make phone calls.

The telco said on Tuesday that trials of the service -- which will allow mobile calls to be routed through fixed line networks rather than GSM mobile networks -- are beginning. The initial triallists will be BT staff and selected business customers, using Sony Ericsson handsets.

"Triallists will be able to use the mobile normally when they are out and about, but when in a Bluetooth site, such as BT Centre, or eventually people's homes or offices, their calls will be routed over the fixed network rather than the GSM mobile network," said BT in a statement. "This will mean that users will benefit from cheaper and clearer calls."

BT's eventual goal is to equip users with phones that are compatible with both Wi-Fi and mobile networks. This would let them surf the Web at high speed when within a Wi-Fi hot spot, and also make voice calls over GSM at other times.

According to reports this week, such dual-mode Wi-Fi and GSM phones should hit the market next year.

Many new phones today support Bluetooth. However, Bluetooth hot spots are far less common than Wi-Fi offerings. Wi-Fi is also a superior technology for BT's purposes, as it provides more bandwidth and works over a longer range. However, Wi-Fi uses significantly more power -- a problem for devices dependent on batteries.

Mobile mistakes?
BT's plans for converged GSM and Wi-Fi mobile devices are just one part of the telco's new push into mobile.

The company also announced on Tuesday that it will sell a combined fixed-line and mobile product for families, called BT Mobile Home Plan. This will let people telephone their home number from their mobile for free, as long as the call lasts less than two minutes. This follows BT research that found that many people call home around five times per week, with each call lasting 2 minutes or less.

As expected, BT has formed an alliance with T-Mobile, and will resell spare capacity on the mobile operator's network.

BT hopes that services such as Mobile Home Plan will help it achieve its target of £300m mobile revenue by 2005.

Critics, though, are claiming BT's move back into mobile is proof that it erred by demerging its mobile operations back in 2001, when it sold off its Cellnet arm, now called mmO2.

It could be argued, though, that BT performed something of a financial coup. MmO2 shares were floated at 74 pence when the company was demerged, but the stock is now trading at just over 52p, suggesting BT got a rather good price for its asset.

Topic: Networking

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  • If manufacturers are thinking of adding Bluetooth and WiFi, why not add DECT as well.

    When I'm at home wouldn't it be sensible to use my mobile phone in conjunction with my local DECT connection (instead of a GSM network)

    Many homes already have DECT phone and it is much more commonly used standard on phones than WiFi or BT put together.

    The other reason for adding DECT is that I will also be spending a lot more time within this DECT area than any 3rd party WiFi or BT hot zone.

    Overall, it's hard work introducing and rolling out new technologies, we maybe better off making better use of the ones we already have.
  • BT's Bluetooth plan is sound from the point of view that the ability to use one device for home/office/ mobile use is a killer application in it's own right. All they need to do to make it fly is give free texts via landline connections. If they roll this out fast enough then they should get some market share fairly quickly. The Wi-Fi bit sounds fine but anything that eats batteries is unlikely to be popular.
  • We read your article with interest, and would like to know who at BT we could contact to find out more about this new technology.
    Any assistance you can give us would be greatly appreciated. Alan Mortleman
  • i work for BT Local Business and have been chosen to trial the bluephone for business use. i will be testing this product to the max, if its a good product/solution BT will take over the world.

    Free text messages over landlines is not an issue. What the should have done is incorporated BLACKBERRY in to this handset. That would make it a complete mobile comms for each individual. voice data and email.