BT hits back at claims of mobile trouble

The monopoly telco has played down national newspaper claims that its mobile phone division is struggling amid falling consumer sales and product flops.

BT has responded to reports in the media that its mobile business is on the rocks.

A report published today in The Times highlighted a steep drop in the number of consumer customers for its mobile phone service.

Current subscriber figures for BT's mobile business show that the company has only 86,000 consumer mobile customers. This is a far cry from the 187,000 subscribers reported in late 2005, the first year for which figures were made public.

However BT insists the business is strong, and the consumer figures are just one small part of its mobile operation.

"The consumer mobile numbers are misleading," a spokeswoman for BT said, "the key driver of revenue growth is the strength of business mobility."

Overall, BT experienced 22 per cent revenue growth last quarter in its business and consumer mobility operations. Business mobility alone grew by 33 per cent last quarter, according to the spokeswoman.

BT's mobile business is a virtual network operator, meaning that it does not own its own physical network infrastructure, but resells airtime from its one-time rival Vodafone under its own brand.

In 2001, BT quit the mobile phone market when it sold off its BT Cellnet business, which was renamed O2. The company sold its mobile arm as one of several disposals to reduce its 30 billion of debt run up during the dot-com period.

The sale helped ease its debt burden, but left the company without a mobile phone network. It re-entered the market as a MVNO shortly afterwards.

One attempt to salvage BT's consumer mobile business came with the introduction of Fusion in 2005. This unique service allowed users to make calls from home on a mobile handset at a very inexpensive rate, and then use it as a conventional mobile phone when away from home.

The product flopped and was quietly dropped having only achieved 45,000 customers.

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