London Business School
This case describes the actions taken by British Telecom’s business unit (BT Business) in response to the radical ‘free broadband forever’ offer introduced by The Carphone Warehouse (TCW) in April 2006. At the time of the campaign, BT Business held a dominant share of the lucrative (and fast growing) broadband market in the UK. TCW’s bold move clearly threatened that position. More important, BT Business was concerned that larger competitors (Vodafone, BSkyB, O2, etc) would follow suit, therefore initiating a price war that in all likelihood would erase profitability in the industry. The main learning points from this case involve pricing and competitive strategy. In particular, BT Business’ problem touches on a number of important questions, including: (1) maintaining price leadership; (2) managing price competition and the threat of customisation; and (3) designing product bundles that capture customer value and act to discourage competition. In addition, this case provides a good example of the challenges often faced by large firms (especially former monopolies) attempting to improve customer orientation. Prior to ‘free broadband forever’, BT had tried unsuccessfully on a number of occasions to shift its organisational structure away from product lines (fixed telephony, mobile voice and data, broadband, etc). Interestingly, they succeeded only in the face of a significant and immediate competitive that ‘helped’ generate the necessary motivation and momentum.