LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - British telecoms supplier BT (BT.L) launched its first mobile broadband offer for consumers on Monday, strengthening its position against rivals such as France Telecom's FTE.PA Orange and Virgin Media VMED.O.
BT, which has no mobile network and buys wholesale network time from Vodafone (VOD.L), will offer a combined mobile and home broadband package starting at 15.65 pounds ($22.78) per month, which it says is the cheapest package available.
Mobile operators in Britain's crowded market have piled into broadband over the past year, as improved network speed and quality have made mobile Web surfing more attractive, but none has the fixed-line coverage that former state monopoly BT does.
Orange has a combined fixed-mobile broadband offer starting at 20 pounds per month for an 18-month contract including a more generous mobile monthly usage allowance.
Virgin Media -- which offers Britain's fastest broadband -- also has combined deals starting at 20 pounds per month.
"BT is able to leverage its strength in fixed broadband, which makes this stand out from the `me too' mobile broadband offers that have flooded the UK market over the past eighteen months," analyst Steven Hartley of research firm Ovum wrote.
"Our main concerns for this offer hinge on the amount BT is paying to use Vodafone's network," he added. BT did not reveal details of its agreement with Vodafone.
BT's shares were up 0.7 percent at 88.7 pence by 1230 GMT, slightly outperforming a flat DJ Stoxx European telecoms sector index .SXKP. ($1=.6869 pounds) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Greg Mahlich)