Is BT Fusion Dead in the Water?

Written by Ken Young, whose own blog is called The UK Mobile Report.

BT has stopped marketing its Fusion handsets to consumers and is now testing a service that uses the same technology but would allow BT broadband users to access the web on the move using handheld devices made by HTC, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Fusion is a convergence service that allows subscribers to make cheap or free calls via Wi-Fi into a BT broadband hub at home and then make calls via the Vodafone network or through BT’s Wi-Fi hotspots when outside. Three dual-mode phones, including the Motorola Razr, are Fusion-compatible. It was first marketed to home users and later to businesses. Om had his doubts about Fusion when BT unveiled it in June 2005, then called BluePhone.

BT has confirmed that Fusion as a consumer service is being wound down. In two-and-a-half years, just 45,000 consumers were signed up, though Ovum estimates 10,000 100,000 handsets were sold to business customers. It will continue to market the service to business customers.

Why did it fail? Take your pick: It was too complex for consumers; it was only available to BT broadband users; only three phones could be used, and only one at launch; for the most part sales had no retail presence; and the logic of a system that required incoming calls to go through a mobile network was questionable.

One thing is clear. BT’s new handheld service had better be a lot more viable than Fusion, or the firm’s credibility as an innovator in mobile services will be doubly damaged.