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BT makes first foray into smartphones

08 мая 2008

BT tried to breathe new life into its faltering mobile phone strategy on Wednesday by unveiling a BlackBerry-style handset.

It is the UK telecoms group’s first smartphone, offering web surfing and music and video playback as well as basic functions such as phone calls and text messaging.

But some analysts said the handset, to be called BT ToGo, was unlikely to have mass-market appeal, while others claimed the web surfing experience could be poor.

James Barford, analyst at Enders Analysis, said: “The product does not have a clear target market. We do not see this product having mass-market appeal.”

BT has struggled to find a successful mobile strategy for the consumer market since the demerger of its wireless phone business in 2001. While BT’s peers such as Spain’s Telefónica and France Telecom have relied on their mobile businesses for growth, the UK group has sought increased sales by supplying telecoms networks and information technology services to multinational companies.

BT’s limited progress in improving profitability of services for multinationals has been a factor weighing on its share price. The stock has fallen 27 per cent since BT’s second-quarter results last November. It closed at 225.5p on Wednesday, up 2 per cent.

In 2005, BT launched Fusion, a wireless phone that makes fixed-line calls inside the home and roams on to Vodafone’s mobile network when outside. But BT has only sold 42,000 Fusion phones in the consumer market, and the company is now focusing on BT ToGo.

The BT smartphone, made by HTC, the Taiwan handset manufacturer, will only be available to the group’s fixed-line broadband customers. The handset contains wi-fi technology that enables it to make a wireless connection to BT’s fixed-line network inside the home. The wireless capability can also be used at more than 80,000 wi-fi hotspots across the UK.

Elsewhere, the handset will run on Vodafone’s mobile network. But analysts highlighted how download speeds will be relatively slow because the handset does not contain third-generation mobile technology.

Gavin Patterson, head of BT’s retail division, played down the possibility of BT buying a mobile phone company, saying the telecoms group had a “good relationship” with Vodafone.


Источник: Financial Times

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