Everything Everywhere finally finds a purpose

Wednesday 12 September 2012 | 21:44 CET | Market Commentary

UK mobile operators T-Mobile and Orange have announced plans to launch the name of their joint venture, Everything Everywhere, as a consumer brand. The EE brand will be used to promote new 'superfast' broadband services, including LTE and fixed broadband over fibre. First unveiled in 2010 as part of the merger of T-Mobile UK and Orange UK, the Everything Everywhere brand has finally found a meaning.

To date, the brand has not been used for customer-facing operations. The Orange and T-Mobile brands still exist and operate separately on the UK market. Few consumers are aware the companies are one in the same, despite the benefits the joint venture brings, such as enhanced network coverage and roaming. Consumers will get the first taste of the brand with the EE logo displayed as the network on their handsets.    

With its new plan, Everything Everywhere faces a daunting marketing task: not only does it introduce a new brand to the crowded mobile market, it will also be the first operator to launch LTE service in the UK. The company has secured regulatory approval to launch LTE in the 1800MHz band, while rivals will have to wait until after an auction later this year to roll out in 2013. EE aims to cover over a third of the UK population with LTE by the end of this year, rising to 70 percent in 2013.

As was seen with 3G, the promise of faster speeds is not always a major selling point with consumers, but this could be changing with the growing adoption of smartphones. In its favour, EE already has the largest customer base in the UK, the first-mover advantage with LTE and a strong initial line-up of LTE devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S III and the new Nokia Lumia phones. The new iPhone 5 will also work in EE's LTE band, giving the company an exclusive on the faster version of the Apple smartphone and helping its LTE service quickly gain scale.  

Another key selling point is the possibility of bundling fixed and mobile broadband. While Orange is already active on the UK ADSL market, it has stopped actively promoting the service and has a miniscule market share. EE did not give many details of its planned fibre service, but it can be expected to use BT's FTTx network. EE targets a fibre footprint of 11 million households and businesses by year-end, with ADSL offered in other areas.  

The EE plan presents a number of new concepts for the UK market. These include:

  • Multiple brands. There was no word on the Orange and T-Mobile brands being phased out, so three brands will exist for the moment. Both operators already use a multi-brand strategy in other markets, to target different customer segments. A clear differentiation of the EE brand will be key.
  • LTE. This is already available in Germany and some of DT's other European markets, while Orange is preparing its launch in France. One risk is a possible legal challenge from the other mobile operators in the UK to Ofcom's approval of EE's spectrum refarming for LTE.  
  • Triple- or quad-play. This is a formula France Telecom has perfected in other markets, notably with its Open quad-play plans in France, which count over 1 million subscribers. Key will be securing the TV element, but the new YouView platform launching in the UK and the approaching full analogue switch-off make it a good time to enter the market.
  • Fibre broadband. BT and Virgin Media are rapidly popularizing the market for broadband over 50Mbps in the UK. With wholesale access to BT's network now available and Orange already familiar with the unbundler role, this should be relatively easy to bring to market.  

Since EE's creation in 2010, rumours have regularly surfaced of either France Telecom or Deutsche Telekom wanting to exit the venture. With each holding 50 percent, it's difficult for either to get the upper hand in terms of strategy. With the latest announcement, the partners appear to have finally comitted to the venture, as well as bringing some much-needed innovation to the competitive UK market. While EE's plan may prove tricky to carry off, its shareholders clearly see more value in investing in the new brand than withdrawing from the UK.

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