EE retains its brand in the new BT world

EE

With BT’s recent purchase of mobile giant EE receiving clearance from the Competition & Markets Authority, we have been curious to see how EE would fit into BT and whether they would lose their identity and become part of BT Mobile?

Following the announcement of the £12.5 billion acquisition on 29th of January, BT has announced the first details on the new organisational structure which comes into place from April 2016.

For EE this means being split in half:

•         The first half is led by EE’s new CEO Marc Allera and comprises of their mobile, broadband and TV services. This part of EE becomes BT’s sixth standalone line of business and interestingly will retain control of its branding, network assets and retail stores.
•         The other half of EE is its business operations, which will now be spun off into a new business unit, BT Business and Public Sector unit which will replace the current BT Business.

So it appears, at least for the short term, that both BT mobile and EE’s mobile offerings will be managed by distinct business groups within BT, each with their own brands, tariffs and marketing – and both being competitively sold to consumers.

“We will operate a multi-brand strategy with UK customers being able to choose a mix of BT, EE or Plusnet services, depending on which suits them best,” said BT CEO Gavin Patterson.

One wonders whether one of the underlying decisions in retaining the EE identify (perhaps a rather canny one in our view), may be down to EE’s brand strength. Cited against the more unwieldy BT Mobile brand, EE’s is perhaps the better recognised, which in fickle markets can cause change – and with the mobile market dominance they hold, any churn could be substantial.  Either way, we’ll see how well they continue to serve their respective customer base and how much more competitive their offerings might become in this new world of Chinese wall telecommunications.

BT’s EE acquisition now cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority

BT-EE

Last January we reported on BT’s £12.5 billion takeover of mobile provided EE. We had since been awaiting to hear from the Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA) whether this move would significantly harm the competition, in not just the mobile provider arena but in the Quad-play (selling a package of fixed-line phone, mobile, internet and TV) space as well.  Surprisingly, the CMA have granted BT the all clear in the EE buy out.

Both BT and EE are giants in their specialties with BT controlling 37.6% of the UK home phone market, 31% of the UK fixed-broadband market and EE holding 33.8% mobile market share. Together they hold 35 million customers between them.

Rivals, including Vodafone and TalkTalk had voiced concern during the acquisition’s original announcement calling for competition authorities to force BT to spin off its Openreach operation which maintains the UK’s copper and fibre communications cable network. This has since gone to regulator Ofcom for review for whether BT and Openreach should in fact be split up due to concerns their performance to other providers had often been poor.

The bringing together of BT and EE will likely see both cross-promotion and cross-sales between landline services and mobile.  One would assume that customers buying all their telecommunications packages from both BT and EE should get monetary savings and they wouldn’t want to lose by switching their mobile carrier next time round, something that is more frequent in the mobile world compared to consumers switching their landline provider.

Another matter yet discussed is the fate of the EE brand, being relatively young at just 6 years. Despite its size as the largest in the market, BT may not be able to resist the temptation in switching the EE brand for uncool BT Mobile. If this was the case, we could see some users switch back over to other mobile provides due to BT’s lack of lustre reputation in customer services and lack of historic expertise in the mobile arena next to O2, Vodafone and even now Three.

Is this really a fair and prudent decision by the CMA in what should be a competitive marketplace?

This week’s technology news – 6th February 2015

US ‘human firewall’ initiative to ward off cyber threats
American safety science company UL, has developed a behaviour focused education programme for their staff to help thwart the high proportion of cyber penetration emanating from phishing attacks through employee mistakes.

At its core, the programme trains employees to recognise and report phishing emails to their IT security department.  The heightened awareness and resulting engagement through this behaviour modelling programme, creates a healthy attitude towards understanding the importance of IT security within a company.  The dynamic ‘human firewall’ was found to be able to spot threats often within minutes, enabling IT security teams to take necessary action and communicate back promptly to the organisation.

The first step at UL was to educate employees on what a phishing attack looked like and a quarterly ‘planted’ phishing message was sent to every employee from CEO down that they were challenged to detect.  Employees were notified that there was to be a test, so as not to be a “gotcha” moment. If an employee fell for the scam, they were routed to a one-page lessons-learned offering two or three pointers on what to look for next time.

The second step was to get employees to report suspect emails. With personal responses to each individual reported attack, the initiative took off quickly and staff were recognised for saving colleagues and customers from attack.  It created a different conversation and improved relationship between departments.  Robert Jamieson, IL’s IT Security Officer believes the personal connect made all the difference. “Because there was no process or reason for people to think to report incidents or queries to us it used to take days or weeks to sort, whereas now the direct response is within 24 hours”.

With this programme, incident reports in UL increased from 10 per month to over 1,000 and the company has reported a 19% decrease in virus-related attacks.  This human firewall initiative is a final cog in the toolbox to many of the technology tools to defend companies from cyber attack – and the principles of what UL have achieved should give serious food for thought to all CISOs whether in a corporate or healthcare environment.
nationwide phishing

How much bigger can BT grow?
Late in 2014, BT confirmed they were in talks for a giant acquisition to take them back into the mobile operator game, with the purchase of their former company O2, or EE. The decision is made and BT has just paid £12.5 billion to acquire UK’s largest mobile provider, EE.

With BT now having both the largest mobile telecoms and fixed-line marketshare in the UK in addition to Openreach, BT’s infrastructure division, any rival telecom operators must go through Openreach to do business, making BT’s control and reach in the UK colossal.

The decision to move back into the mobile provider market isn’t surprising. Increasingly home users admit to only have a landline because they have to in order to get internet access it. Even at home the majority of calls are now made on mobiles instead of the landline. The deal more than trebles BT’s retail customers adding the 10 million BT already had to EE’s 24.5 million direct mobile subscribers.

The inclusion of mobile will also let BT provide “quad play” selling mobile, fixed-line, broadband and TV as a group of services.

UK competition authorities will be paying very close attention to this move but may need to take a different look than usual. Normally mobile and fixed-line markets are analysed separately. If done here, EE is not larger after this acquisition than before, however if competition authorities look at this alongside BT’s numerous non-mobile communications services, the strength BT could potentially apply on overlapping markets would give them significant advantage.

The EE buyout is expected to be finalised by March 2016, subject to shareholder approval and competition authority agreement.  Meanwhile, rumours are that mobile operator Three is in talks to buy O2.  That gossip along with Vodafone rumoured to buy Virgin Mobile, ensures that the telecoms world will be a very busy and potentially contentious commercial space in 2015.

BT-EE

 

The Week’s Technology News – 28th March 2014

A little more seasoning with that sensor, Sir?
The first international factory for ingestible sensors, is to be built in the UK by US company, Proteus Digital Health.  The factory will have the NHS and the UK Government as partners.   Portable devices such as these are decentralising healthcare and will transform the way healthcare can be delivered in partnership with the patient. The technology is swallowed and the stomach fluids power the sensor by transporting it via stomach fluids.  A body worn patch sends information captured to a mobile device.  Such technologies have the potential to be transformative to healthcare, as the collection of data and mobile management tools enable diagnosis, faster assessment and more accurate treatment, linking the patient, their carer and clinician to help them stay well.  The technology will become more affordable and convenient as specialists in consumer technology are conjoining with medical technology and identifying commercial opportunity.  For an already overstretched NHS this sounds like a welcome IT technological advance.

Irritation with spammers creates collaboration amongst mobile giants and ICO
EE, O2, Three and Vodafone and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) are working together to prevent nuisance text messages of spammers and fraudsters spreading across the UK’s four major mobile networks. This is being done by the mobile group signing up to the GSMA Spam Reporting Service. This will be coupled with mechanisms in real time to find the perpetrators. Those who have breached the Privacy of Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR), will have monetary penalties issued against them.  In 2012, the ICO issued a £440,000 fine to two men running a spam texting operation.  The GSMA platform will collate and analyse the details of users’ reported spam to id patterns and origins of attack. The collaborative aim of the group is to isolate and prevent spread to other networks.  The ICO is also looking to extend this into nuisance calls.  Vigilance against threats to mobile devices are an ongoing challenge for MSPs, as mobile workforces become ever more commonplace. Reducing fear and threat should certainly get the thumbs up from the marketplace.

Keep your MITs off our data
A group of MIT researchers have created a new platform for creating spy proof websites by building secure sites, services and applications, called Mylar.  This is in response to the high profile Snowden leaks of government agency incursions in the USA to capture people’s private data and to counter the increase in identify theft and hacking efforts internationally.  With Mylar, the data remains encrypted all the time in its servers and only decrypted when accessed from your computer, with correct password authentication.  The system is being tested by a group of patients in the US to share medical information with their doctors and the designers are exploring their own chat, photo sharing and calendar applications.   Whether this leads to a more commercial take up remains to be seen, as web providers may be reluctant to use a technology which restricts clients’ websites from accessing user data to serve targeted ads.

Gartner take time out to stare up at the clouds
One of Gartner’s leading Storage Technology and Strategist Directors, Valdis Fink, has been thinking afresh about how Cloud needs to develop, versus how it has been used.   For organisations, a primary benefit of Cloud has been to shift capital costs to operational costs.  SMEs who have had their own servers or back up options, are increasingly taking up the opportunity to outsource to secure data centres.  However, data centres have remained the same with centralised grid computing architecture which has got larger and the offerings cheaper, so data (and apps) has essentially just been re-centralised elsewhere. Fink maintains that real cloud computing should be location and device independent, safe and accessible from anywhere, within the internet, on peoples’ computers and devices, in data centres and in hyper-scale data centres, using information dispersal algorithms.  Such technologies are available today, which synch and secure. So the challenge for forward thinking MSPs is to drive the thinking, rather than follow major vendors to ensure your service is “leading edge” and right for your clients who have every right to expect the best.

Mobile download speeds go orbital

In the UK many have yet to make the switch over to 4G mobile. EE is currently the UK 4G leader providing up to 60Mbps connections, making a much appreciated leap from the country’s mainly 3G supply. South Korea carriers SK Telecom and LG U+ are way ahead with 4G technology from marrying three bands to achieve the higher speed. They hope to have downloads of up to 300Mbps to compatible phones and tablets before the end of 2014. Assumingly not satisfied with these blazing speeds, the South Korean government has also announced a new initiative to introduce 5G within the next six years which will see data speeds increase another 1,000 times that of current 4G. Jealousy may not get you anywhere, but curiosity might, as SK Telecom plan to showcase an astonishing 450Mbps at Mobile World Congress.

EE paves the way for changing operations for NHS Trust

Faster mobile connectivity using 4G has transformed mobile working efficiency for Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Serving a population of 900,000 and employing 4,000 members of staff over 100 trust sites, home visits placed enormous demands on healthcare workers trying to manage their time during and between appointments. Previous attempts by the Trust to use 3G failed, due to slow and unreliable connections where healthcare workers needed to check and update patient records “live”. The new technology uses speeds five times faster than 3G and nurses armed with laptops and Mi-Fi devices can now see one or two extra patients every day from time savings. However, it was not only the technical impact that has resonated with the Trust. After the initial investment, training and deployment, nursing staff have been able to increase the quality of time with their patients which is a key Trust priority. Schemes like this are likely to rise as MSPs and their healthcare clients seize the opportunity to roll out pilots, where success can be better measured and risk minimised whilst outcomes are assessed.

Technology through our eyes – Amicus ITS

Underground Wi-Fi

Virgin Media announced its offering of free Wi-Fi service for the London Underground during the Olympics. With the end of this free service imminent, Virgin Media have enlisted both Vodafone and EE (the UK’s first 4G provider) as partners.  From early next year only customers of these networks will be able to gain access. This long overdue increased Wi-Fi service confirms the demand to be ever mobile and always available.

HP and Autonomy – $5 billion write off

HP has accused Autonomy of inflating their financial value before the acquisition.  It seems that HP’s eagerness to capitalise on Big Data may have seen their governance standards slip, costing them over $5 billion. This should be a warning to other technology giants to think carefully before taking drastic steps to try and get a foothold into future technologies.

Bring Your Own…

BYOD is changing the way users live and work, and as many organisations see its steady increase, a new angle has emerged.  The BYOS (Bring Your Own Service) trend incorporates the cloud, allowing end users to introduce apps and services that allow file synchronization for the movement of data across numerous devices. Our concerns remain with security.  Until organisations are able to offer a secure IT environment, the safety of company information can’t be guaranteed.