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BT rumoured to be gearing up to buy back O2

iPhone 6 Plus BT Tower sample shot

BT's second stab at a mobile network could begin with O2, the company that the former originally sold to Telefonica

BT could be preparing to re-enter the mobile phone network market, with a rumoured buy-out of O2 – the company it used to own before leaving the industry and selling up to Telefonica.

According to a report from Spanish tech website El Confidencial, BT could be willing to hand over a 20 percent stake of the business in order to make a deal happen. BT originally sold O2 for £17.7 billion ten years ago, but it’s unclear what the company would have to pay to buy it back. It’s fair to say O2 is lagging behind the likes of EE and Vodafone in terms of customer base, but it may still command a high price.

Even though the deal is reportedly in the very early stages, we don’t think there’s reason to wait on upgrading your existing contract or changing network; the report comes from a solitary, unnamed source, which despite having since been coroborated by Engadget, suggests there’s nothing concrete just yet.

A BT statement issued this morning said the company was “assessing the merits of an acquisition of a mobile network operator in the UK.” It also suggested O2 may not be the company’s only target: apparently it has “received expressions of interest from shareholders in two UK mobile network operators, of which one is O2, about a possible transaction in which BT would acquire their UK mobile business.”

The Financial Times has suggested that other provider is EE, currently Britain’s largest mobile network formed from the combination of Orange and T-Mobile. If that is indeed the plan, BT will likely have to part with a considerable amount of cash to make it happen.

BT was already preparing its own mobile network, using spare spectrum on EE’s existing 3G and 4G network, despite the company owning its own small sliver of 4G spectrum. It may also rely on its BT broadband userbase to fill the gaps, using the BT FON networks built into every Home Hub. If it could break back into the mobile space, either with O2 or EE’s help, it would become one of the biggest suppliers of home phone, broadband, mobile and TV packages.

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