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Poor sales prompt BT Fusion rethink

Although analysts say businesses have taken to the fixed/mobile service, sales in other areas have been poor
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT has reportedly abandoned, for the moment, attempts to market its dual-mode Wi-Fi handsets to consumers, despite the relative success of the device amongst business customers.

According to an article in Wednesday's The Daily Telegraph newspaper, the BT Fusion phones — which route calls off the cellular network and onto DSL-based connections where available — have found just 45,000 takers in the consumer sector, despite widespread marketing.

BT does not have its own cellular network — it resells a Vodafone service — but it does have an extensive network of Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK. However, Wi-Fi is a major drain on handset batteries and high-speed 3G services have become increasingly common, both through handsets themselves and through USB modems.

Speaking to ZDNet.co.uk on Wednesday, a BT spokesperson denied that the company had abandoned its Fusion service. "It is still being actively marketed to SMEs and large businesses, both in the UK and abroad, but we have scaled back on our [consumer] marketing," the spokesperson said.

The company is currently trialling a "next-generation style of device similar to a BlackBerry", but refused to say whether it would be targeted at the consumer or business sectors. The device will "launch in a few months' time", the spokesperson added.

Ovum analyst Mike Cansfield wrote on his firm's website that Fusion had been "a disappointment in the consumer space".

"At the time of launch, we were very positive about the idea (the technology behind Fusion is very clever, particularly the seamless handover of calls from a mobile into the fixed network), but sceptical about the pricing (particularly the minutes bucket on offer) and whether BT could market this successfully," wrote Cansfield on Wednesday.

Cansfield noted that Fusion had been far more successful in the business market, and estimated that over 100,000 handsets had been sold in this sector. "The reason it sells well is because corporate customers want to converge their fixed and mobile communications into one," he wrote. "Given the importance of corporates to BT… it is clearly not going to abandon [fixed-mobile convergence] as a concept."

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