Broadband price war: TalkTalk fires super-fast salvo at super-low cost
If you are regularly left staring at the spinning “wheel of doom” rather than your chosen iPlayer programme, now is the time to upgrade your broadband package to a faster fibre service, following the outbreak of a price war among the major providers. This week telecoms firm TalkTalk fired the latest salvo by cutting the cost of its “up to 38Mbps” faster fibre service to just ?25 a month (including the landline), meaning fibre now costs the same, or less, than many people are paying for their basic package. Until relatively recently most households were content with a basic/cheapest service which is advertised as up to 17Mbps, but rarely delivers more than 6Mbps – assuming you live in an urban area close to a street cabinet.
However, fast-changing TV viewing habits – notably the increased use of Netflix and Amazon services, and catch-up TV – are forcing more households to consider faster connections. To get TalkTalk’s ?25-a-month deal you need to sign a two-year contract. It is waiving the ?60 set-up fee and, unlike its rivals, promising no price rises during the contract term.
While there are no free evening and weekend telephone calls included, you can add unlimited landline calls for ?7.50 a month. Plus.net (part of BT), Vodafone and the lesser-known Origin also offer fibre for ?25, although with the first two there are small set-up fees, and no price guarantee. Sky has a fibre deal that at ?20 a month looks cheaper, however users are limited to 25GB of data downloads each month, rather defeating the “upgrading” exercise.
The prices, which must now include the landline cost to meet new price advertising rules, will look attractive to anyone who hasn’t switched supplier recently – particularly those with BT who pay ?29.99 a month for its basic broadband/landline deal as a new customer, and a crazy ?40.99 a month if out of contract. BT’s unlimited Infinity 1 fibre is ?35 a month on a 12-month contract. It comes with a free speed upgrade – to 76Mbps rather than the advertised 52Mbps.
Be warned: there is a nasty ?60 upfront fee. Sky’s unlimited up-to-38Mbps fibre deal is ?30 a month for 18 months with a ?49 set up fee, although you can probably haggle this away. Virgin Media offers by far the highest speeds by virtue of its cable network, but is pricier.
Its up to 200Mbps phone and broadband package is ?37 a month for nine months then ?45 for the rest of the 12-month contract – plus ?20 activation. There is one major thing to consider before you sign up to fibre, says Dan Howdle, broadband expert at comparison website Cable.co.uk, and that is whether moving up to fibre will actually deliver. “For many it will be an upgrade in speed, but not all homes will benefit,” he says. “It all comes down to how far your home is from the cabinet in the street. To gain a genuine speed increase you need to be within 900m.
If your house is 1.8km away you’ll see no discernible improvement and may as well stick with the cheaper basic service.” He says the best way to check your likely speed is to use the application provided by Ofcom – checker.ofcom.org.uk. Your chosen supplier will also give you a likely speed.
He adds that these predicted speeds are estimates only, and while correct in the majority of cases are still prone to error in areas where specific problems exist. Meanwhile, he predicts that many customers will be nervous about moving to cheapest provider TalkTalk given its well-publicised data breach problems over the past few years. “You’d hope they now have the system in place to stop it happening again. On the plus side, it’s the only big provider promising no price rises for the contract term, which, given the way the others have hiked prices recently, will be attractive.”
The best thing about super-fast broadband is that, once installed, you don’t have to think about it – it just works, writes Jim Griffin.
And with so much of modern life increasingly geared around connectivity, I want to be sure my broadband is fast and reliable. But on moving house three years ago, having opted for Sky’s bog-standard broadband, I was constantly thinking about internet speeds, or lack thereof. Our package promised something like 10Mbps, but in reality mustered 3Mbps.
Web pages took an age to load, YouTube videos or clips on newspaper websites stuttered – it wasn’t even fast enough to run the Super8Pool game on my phone (trivial you might think, but I was a pool ace!). Sky attempted to improve things, but said it was as fast as it could be. We finally jumped ship to Virgin, which was offering 50Mbps for ?42 (including TV) – and we regularly achieve that speed. Broadband is now something that just happens, no problem: surfing the web, streaming Netflix, watching videos.
And my pool career is back on track.