Orange, T-Mobile to let customers roam across networks

Customers will be able to sign up for 2G roaming on the other network for better connectivity, as the two companies consolidate their merger into Everything Everywhere

Orange and T-Mobile have set a launch date for a service that will let their respective customers roam onto the other network for voice and text.

From 5 October, customers can sign up to be able switch to the other network if they lose 2G connectivity on their home service, parent company Everything Everywhere said in a statement on Monday. In May, Orange and T-Mobile merged in the UK to become Everything Everywhere, and the two entities are in the process of merging operations.

A page has been set up on each of the Orange and T-Mobile web sites for customers to sign up. The opt-in is required so that the service provider can check whether the customer's handset is technically capable of handling the switchover, according to Everything Everywhere.

"On a small number of devices, there may be some initial minor differences. However, we know about these due to the testing that we have done, so we'll make customers aware – before they choose to opt in – if the device they're using is likely to lead to any different experiences," an Everything Everywhere spokesperson told ZDNet UK. "That way, they'll be able to decide for themselves whether they want to go ahead and opt in during the early phase."

Orange and T-Mobile will use over-the-air updates to handsets to enable customer SIMs to roam, the spokesperson added.

The opt-in service is the first stage of using the two networks to provide failover connectivity. In 2011, Orange and T-Mobile will automatically shift customers between networks to get the best available voice and text coverage, according to Everything Everywhere.

"Next year, we'll start automatically switching customers onto whichever of the two networks has the strongest signal when they're on their phone," the spokesperson said. "This is something very new for our customers to get used to, and we didn't want to confuse or alarm customers by pushing the benefit to them automatically [in October]. By asking customers to opt in, we can properly explain the service, so they're not surprised to suddenly see a different network name on their phone."

The option to shift between the two infrastructures will eventually extend to 3G data, according to Everything Everywhere.

"We have a vision of a 'multinet' world where the consumer will be able to access what they want, when they want, at the touch of a button," said company CEO Tom Alexander in the statement. "It will all be possible due to a complex system of interweaving multiple networks, bringing mobile, Wi-Fi and fixed technologies together to act as a 'super network'."

The extension of roaming to 3G networks will happen in 2011, according to the Everything Everywhere spokesperson.

Since 2007, T-Mobile has had a 3G roaming deal in place with 3UK under a joint venture company called Mobile Broadband Network Ltd (MBNL). As part of the conditions for the joint venture to complete, T-Mobile had to renegotiate the terms of its agreement with 3UK and MBNL. The agreement was completed on 16 August, the spokesperson said.

"The terms of the deal permit Everything Everywhere to integrate the Orange network [into MBNL] by enabling roaming, then adding Orange sites to the network it shares with 3 over the course of time," said the spokesperson. "3 customers will get access to a significant proportion of those sites as they are added."