BT has returned to the UK's mobile marketplace with a trio of 4G tariffs as the operator attempts to gain a foothold ahead of its merger with EE.

Analysts labelled the move “more aggressive than anticipated” after the UK incumbent unveiled three SIM-only deals starting at £5 per month for existing BT broadband customers, which includes 500MB of data, unlimited texts and 200 minutes.

Subscribers to BT Mobile will get free access to BT Sport and unlimited access to BT Wi-Fi hotspots, plus “family friendly” features such as monthly spending caps and the ability to register up to five mobile phones on a single tariff.

New customers will be able to pick up the the plan for £10 a month.

Two other tariffs offering 2GB and 20GB of data are also available. All contracts are 12 months in duration.

The operator is selling 4G handsets from £99 through its retail stores, but said that customers would also be able to use older 2G and 3G handsets with the new tariffs.

The service is being delivered via EE's network after the two companies signed an MVNO deal in March last year.

BT launched a 4G service for business customers last summer.

John Petter, Chief Executive of BT Consumer, commented: “Offering BT customers the UK’s best value 4G data deal is a great way to start our journey towards re-establishing ourselves as a major player in consumer mobile.

“We are offering 4G on the UK’s biggest network along with unlimited access to the most extensive Wi-Fi coverage via our 5 million BT Wi-fi hotspot network. Plus BT Sport and a discount of up to 50 percent on your mobile tariff if you are a BT Broadband customer.”

“Our customers are consuming increasing amounts of data and they want the best possible connection wherever they are. It’s our ambition to meet this demand by combining the power of our fixed fibre service with Wi-Fi and the convenience of mobile.”

The launch marks the first step in BT’s attempt to establish a foothold in the UK’s mobile market ahead of its merger with EE.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that the parents of Three and O2 have agreed terms for a merger as the market is set for significant upheaval.

Both deals remain subject to regulatory approval.

CCS Insight analyst Paolo Pescatore said the launch by BT was “more aggressive than anticipated”, and emphasised the operator’s ambitions for the UK’s multiplay market.

He commented: “BT has made the right decision to offer a range of simple and transparent packages as part of its return to the consumer mobile market. The £5 SIM only deal for existing BT broadband households is probably the best value 4G SIM only deal in the market. We believe this is a hugely attractive offer combining a low-price with inclusive content.

“The main challenge for BT was to bring something different to a mature mobile market and it has certainly done this with BT Sport and BT WiFi. The tariffs are spot on and it lays down the gauntlet to other multiplay providers in the UK.

“Rivals should be threatened by this move and Sky in particular will need to react given how punchy BT’s SIM only deals are. With this in mind Sky may need to launch mobile a lot sooner.”

Sky announced in January that it plans to launch a mobile service in the UK next year.

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