BT is talking convergence again. The telco has added a smartphone option to its consumer broadband package.
The new service, BT Total Broadband Anywhere, furnishes customers with one of a choice of two HTC smartphones, along with 50 any-network minutes, 50 texts and 10MB of data on the basic package. That package will cost £29.99 per month after an initial three-month introductory offer of £23.99.
BT said the package will enable web users to continue surfing and emailing outside the home. However, it admitted broadband speeds will only be achievable in areas with a wireless broadband network. Outside Wi-Fi zones, the phones have to run on a GPRS cellular network, rather than 3G, which means browsing will be much slower.
Warren Buckley, director of portfolio convergence at BT, said the move extends what the telco has been doing in the SME marketplace with its Office Anywhere product. Indeed, the devices on offer to home users are the same: the HTC S710 and HTC S620.
But, unlike the SME offering, the handsets included in the Total Broadband Anywhere package — known as BT ToGo devices — have been reskinned with a BT-branded user interface.
Buckley said BT is also targeting another kind of convergence — the collision between work and home life — as boundaries continue to blur and consumers appropriate services they previously used for and at work, making use of them for managing their home life too.
He added: "Of course there'll always be differences between [work and home life] but we all live lives that, actually, it's harder and harder to segment."
This is not the telco's first foray into the world of consumer mobility.
The company launched an FMC (fixed-mobile convergence) product known as Fusion back in 2005. Earlier this year, however, it stopped marketing Fusion to consumers after reportedly failing to gain much interest. However, Buckley stressed the FMC offering has been a success with enterprise customers.
He added: "We've learnt a huge amount from Fusion that's gone into the user interface [of BT ToGo]: getting our addressable marketplace right; getting the support and converged services right; thinking about how it links into the billing environment."
While BT ToGo phones can make use of Wi-Fi at home or via BT hotspots for mobile VoIP, there is no ability for calls to be seamlessly handed over from Wi-Fi to cellular and vice versa, as with FMC phones.
Showing that BT's belief in convergence does not quite yet stretch to device convergence, Buckley said: "We think some customers will use two devices, so they'll have their mobile phone and this service."
But he said the Windows Mobile platform of the BT ToGo devices means a user could — at least, in theory — get their work email on the device as well. "The device and the service does not restrict it being set up for work," Buckley said.
"Obviously, the work environment would be where the restriction is but, essentially, if there's an Exchange Server environment, there's no reason why a BT ToGo Total Broadband customer [couldn't get their work email on the device]," he added.
"As long as the IT policies allow them, they could enter in those details and then they could have the same device with their work email on as well. We've not restricted that at all," Buckley said.