BT has confirmed that it is discussing the possibility of repurchasing O2, after Telefonica revealed that it is considering putting the mobile business up for sale.
BT sold its mobile division (BTCellnet, later O2) to Telefonica in 2005 for around £18 billion, but has revealed that it is planning to re-enter the consumer market in the second quarter of 2015 with a new 4G mobile service, which will harness its fixed line broadband network and also utilise the MVNO deal with EE.
Both Telefonica and O2 are reticent to reveal too much about the new talks, though the fact they have both chosen the same phrase to describe them - 'highly preliminary' - suggests a certain level of cooperation.
"Telefonica informs that, although it is in talks with British Telecom, these talks are in a highly preliminary phase and there is no certainty that a transaction will take place," the Spanish firm stated.
BT added: "We have 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."
A spokesperson noted that all discussions are at early stages and there can be "no certainty" that any transaction will occur, with a further announcement made if and when appropriate.
In addition, BT has stressed that it is continuing to develop its own mobile service as scheduled, though is also exploring ways of speeding up these plans, which includes "assessing the merits of an acquisition of a mobile network operator in the UK".
According to Telefonica, a continuation of the market-wide shift to bundled services is the key reason for its prospective sale of O2.
It formerly had a fixed line home broadband and phone business under the O2 banner, but failed to make this work and eventually sold the customers to Sky Broadband.