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BT sets wireless cities deadline

Update: Telco commits to completing its 12-city rollout by March this year, and signs a high-street deal with Phones 4u
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

BT has committed to completing its Wireless Cities project within three months.

By March 2007, the telco will have Wi-Fi-enabled 12 city centres, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Westminster and Edinburgh.

The project is still very much in its infancy, having been launched in May 2006. Monday was the first time BT has laid down a deadline.

The deadline was buried in the small print of a company statement published on Monday which revealed a large marketing push to encourage consumer use of the technology. This deadline referred to "next year", implying a deadline in 2008, but BT admitted on Tuesday that the information had been written last December — when next year meant 2007.

The telco has also signed its first deal with a high-street retailer for its Fusion phones, which combine Wi-Fi and GSM on a single handset. BT will sell three such handsets — one each from Nokia, Samsung and Motorola — through several hundred branches of Phones 4u, the telco said in the statement on Monday.

But despite the fact that calls will be carried entirely over IP, BT will charge for such calls. In a convoluted pricing structure, consumers will get "four minutes talk for the price of one" if they use their bundled voice minutes for Wi-Fi calls.

Business users get a different offer — calls up to 60 minutes will cost 5p to landlines, 15p to BT mobiles and 25p to other mobiles. Calls made outside Wi-Fi hotspots cost 25p for up to 60 minutes.

The last time BT commented on a major project deadline was to reveal slippage in its £10bn network upgrade, 21CN. The deadline for 21CN has slipped from its original 2009 completion date back to the current target of 2011.

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