Author(s): Kester Mann
Last week, BT announced it's extending availability of its Complete Wi-Fi service to all its fibre broadband customers.
Initially launched in late November 2018, Complete Wi-Fi is a clever concept that addresses a clear frustration for broadband customers by seeking to eliminate "black spots" and areas of weak coverage in the home.
BT says the service guarantees wall-to-wall coverage and boosts average speeds by up to 25 percent in a typical four-bedroom house. The move should add further credibility to the company's much-vaunted Best-Connected strategy, which aims to deliver the best services and experiences to all customers in the UK.
Explaining the reason for its launch, BT pointed to research showing that 27 percent of people have a Wi-Fi signal that doesn't cover their whole house and more than four in 10 are restricted in what they can do online by the quality of their connection. The operator also highlighted that demand for bandwidth will only accelerate. Marc Allera, CEO of BT's consumer division, declared at the launch event that the average smart home will have 50 connected devices by 2023.
Complete Wi-Fi works by pairing a unique Wi-Fi disc with BT's new Smart Hub 2 router. If this doesn't achieve the desired results, BT will supply up to two more discs free of charge. And if this fails, the operator will offer customers a £20 rebate. Through the My BT app users can find the best locations for the discs inside the home, and they can also make video calls for help with any technical problems. The service could prove most valuable in older houses that have thicker walls and often more divisions.
The service could be particularly attractive to families and this reflects BT's accelerating focus on the household, rather than individuals. Enabling better connectivity inside the home will also help BT create a stronger platform on which to enhance existing services and launch new ones.
This is likely to include a push into the smart home market, spearheaded by the EE brand, announced as part of a wide-reaching update to the consumer division in May 2018 (see BT Unveils New Consumer Strategy). BT is following a similar strategy to many other leading multiplay providers, adding and cross-selling more services into households to encourage greater spending and potentially lock in customers.
Complete Wi-Fi was originally introduced only for customers of BT Plus, the company's multiplay tariff aimed at offering the best of BT. Behind the exclusivity was the aim to maintain the premium positioning of Plus, so it's a little surprising that the company has extended availability to other customers so soon. Having said that, BT Plus customers can add Complete Wi-Fi for only £5 per month, compared with the £10 fee for those on its fibre broadband packages that start at about £40 a month.
Still, the decision to bring Complete Wi-Fi to a wider target market raises the question of whether the service could take revenue away from higher-tier packages from both BT and EE, for which faster speeds are an important part of their positioning.
Nonetheless, we applaud BT for a novel move that addresses a burning issue for many consumers. We expect to see a raft of new products and services from BT's brands in 2019, including the roll-out of its first commercial 5G offer, further enhancements to BT Plus, a new hybrid router combining fixed-line and mobile connectivity, a foray into the smart home and improvements to BT TV based on partnerships with the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Sky. Expanding the reach of Complete Wi-Fi looks set to be just the first move of many in a busy 2019 for BT's consumer arm.