BT and AT&T announced plans for another joint venture on Thursday, this time in the mobile phone arena, to try and take on rival Vodafone Airtouch.
The new Advance initiative is intended to provide international business people with an "anytime, anywhere" service and will offer new products and services such as global billing and cellular phones that work on different mobile networks worldwide.
While Advance will initially be based on 198 GSM networks in 100 countries and 140 TDMA networks in 50 countries, the two companies now plan to take a common stance on socalled Third Generation mobile and mobile Internet standards.
They also said they hoped to boost revenues by ensuring that traveling customers "roamed" on to their networks and not onto those of other carriers. Although roaming charges are currently a contentious issue, Advance claimed it would come up with simple roaming packages to try and stimulate usage.
But US analysts claimed the two companies had hooked up to enable them to compete more effectively against Vodafone AirTouch, the global leader in the business cell phone market.
Nigel Hawkins, an analyst with Williams de Broe, said: "It's fair to say that Vodafone AirTouch, which is in the pole position, had to expect that some of the big beasts in the telecoms jungle would try and emulate it over the next couple of years."
Over the last 14 months, BT and AT&T have also set up a $10 billion global venture to serve the communications needs of multinational businesses, carriers, and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), for which they are still awaiting regulatory approval, and have announced joint investments worth in excess of $3 billion in Japan and Canada.
But the companies stressed that the creation of Advance was not a precursor to a fully fledged merger of their respective mobile operations.
Andy Green, BT's group director of strategy and development, said: "We don't think that's necessary. We think we can deliver the customer growth and the value growth and the revenue growth we're looking for with an alliance."
The two firm's mobile operations currently serve 41 million customers in 17 countries and generate annual sales of $12 billion. According to Deloitte Research, more than 226 million customers use cell phones worldwide and this number is growing by 52 per cent per annum.
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