Orange, T-Mobile UK roaming to start in October

LONDON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - British customers of France Telecom's FTE.PA Orange and Deutsche Telekom's DTEGn.DE T-Mobile will be able to roam across each other's UK networks from October, the new joint venture of the two companies said.

Everything Everywhere, Britain’s biggest mobile operator since a merger took effect in July, said on Friday customers would be able to opt in to switching networks whenever their signal was low, starting from Oct. 5. [ID:nLDE6201SJ]

From early next year, once glitches are ironed out, switching to the best of the two signals will become automatic, Everything Everywhere’s Chief Executive Tom Alexander told journalists in London.

“It will be just as though the phone is roaming abroad, but in the UK,” he said.

Orange and T-Mobile merged their British units this year, becoming the country's top mobile group ahead of Telefonica's TEF.MC O2 and Vodafone VOD.L with more than 30 million customers. They are keeping the Orange and T-Mobile brands.

Everything Everywhere is aiming for the quality of its network to become a selling point, as mobile networks become overcrowded with customers increasingly using Web services.

Over time, customers should be able to switch from fixed to mobile networks to wi-fi hotspots without noticing, it said.

The company also introduced high-definition voice calling for Orange customers this week.

Everything Everywhere aims to start building a next-generation LTE (long-term evolution) mobile network next year, offering faster speeds and able to handle more traffic, and to have its first LTE phones available in 2012.

Its plans to obtain the spectrum it needs for LTE at a forthcoming auction have been upset by a change of government in Britain, but the company said it was talking to the regulator and there was ample time to resolve any issues.

O2 and Vodafone both have 900 MHz spectrum, which can be reused for LTE services, while Everything Everywhere’s spectrum is in the 1,800 MHz band.

Everything Everywhere had had an understanding that O2 and Vodafone would be restricted in the amount of roughly comparable 800 MHz spectrum they could bid for, but the agreement was not implemented before national elections in May. (Editing by David Holmes) ($1=.7453 Euro)