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BT Denies Convergence Backing

BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA) is playing down media speculation that a bevy of Tier 1 and 2 carriers have joined its Fixed-to-Mobile Convergence Alliance.

According to a report in today’s Financial Times, the U.K. carrier has now signed up Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM), Korea Telecom, Brasil Telecom SA, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), France’s Groupe Cegetel, Australia’s Telstra Corp., Canada’s Rogers Wireless Communications Inc. (NYSE: RCN; Toronto: RCM), and Eurotel in an effort to promote the use of fixed and mobile services over a single device.

The report follows BT’s announcement last month that it has teamed with wireless giant Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) on a similar partnership. Its "BluePhone" deal will see BT offer customers a handset that will connect to its own fixed network when used at home or in the office but will switch to Vodafone’s wireless network once outside (see Voodoo Teams With BT and Seven Launch BT's Bluephone).

At the time of the Voodoo partnership, BT announced it was to act as chair of the alliance, which also included Brasil Telecom and Korea Telecom. In an email statement to Unstrung today, BT denies that any further carriers have jumped on board.

“BT is speaking to a number of potentially interested telecom operators who may share BT’s vision for convergence but to date we have three confirmed members, including BT. We hope other telecom operators will wish to join the Alliance but any follow-up enquiries are a matter to be directed to that operator.”

Analysts claim the backing of such high-profile names would be a “significant” boost to the industry.

“Together with voice over IP, fixed-to-mobile convergence is the most important service issue facing fixed and mobile operators during the next few years,” says Ovum Ltd. chief analyst Julian Hewett.

“It’s interesting that the initial membership is dominated by fixed operators… Fixed operators have more to gain from fixed-mobile convergence than mobile operators. The key motive for fixed operators is to encourage mobile calls that are currently made from within homes or within offices to be carried on the cheaper and higher-quality fixed network.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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