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Sky offering free broadband and TV for those signing up to Sky Movies

Friday 27 March 2015 11:46:49 by Andrew Ferguson

Most broadband providers and bundling operations totally ignore existing customers and while Sky does not always give all its best offers to existing customers, they have a new set of offers around their Sky Movies bundle.

  • For those totally new to Sky and signing up to a Sky Movies bundle you will pay £30/month for six months, then £38.50 and after the 12 month minimum term once the free unlimited ADSL2+ broadband and TV price offer expires the price is £53.50 per month. You also get the choice of a free 32" LG TV or a £100 M&S e-Voucher, Tesco Gift Card or Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificate.
  • Existing Sky TV customers who do not already have broadband can upgrade to Sky Movies and pay just £8.50 extra for 6 months and also get 12 months free ADSL2+ unlimited broadband.
  • Existing Sky Movies customers who do not have broadband from Sky already can also get the 12 months free broadband offer.
  • If you already have Sky Broadband then the free broadband for upgrading to Sky Movies is not applicable, but always worth checking the account online in case you have an individual offer.

Any one signing up to a Sky Broadband package will also need to move the voice line rental to Sky, which is charged at £16.40 per month.

The exact model of the 32" LG TV is not known, but the cheapest LG models seem to be around £190 to £230 which makes choosing between the £100 vouchers or the free TV a little more complex.

Latest offers and £75 shopping voucher for TalkTalk switchers

Friday 27 March 2015 11:29:11 by Andrew Ferguson

TalkTalk has brought back its £75 Love2Shop vouchers across its broadband range that can be redeemed at a number of High Street stores - who said the Internet has killed the High Street?

The vouchers are as per usual only available to new customers switching to TalkTalk from BT, Sky or PlusNet and are only available until 2nd April 2015. The various price offers have also seen some changes, which are summarised below.

  • Simply Broadband (Unlimited ADSL2+) is now £1.75 per month for 12 months, then £3.50 per month on an 18 month contract.
  • Fibre Broadband (up to 38 Mbps) is now £5 per month for six months, then £13.50 per month.
  • Essentials TV (Unlimited ADSL2+) is £4.25 for 6 months, then £9.50 per month. Includes basic YouView box with limited pause and rewind facilities.
  • Plus TV (Unlimited ADSL2) is £9.25 for 12 months, then £18.50 per month on an 18 month contract. Includes a full YouView PVR and a free mobile SIM that has a monthly allowance of 200 MB data, 100 minutes of calls and 250 text messages.

Voice line rental is a requirement on all the TalkTalk products and is priced at £16.70 per month, or the equivalent of £15.03 if you pay annually in advance.

Government response Rural Affairs Report on Broadband

Thursday 26 March 2015 16:17:22 by Andrew Ferguson

The Government has officially responded to a Rural Affairs Committee report that was published in February 2015. The response can be read in full online and the response is short enough that even those with slow broadband should manage to access the page.

The response is largely a summary of what the Chancellor in his Budget, the DCMS and Ed Vaizey MP have been saying in the last week.

  1. The Government is committed to ensuring 90% coverage of superfast broadband by early 2016 and 95% coverage by December 2017. The National Audit Office memorandum of 28 January 2015 confirmed we are on track to achieve these targets. In addition we will deliver a universal service commitment to give all remaining premises access to speeds of at least 2Mbps by the end of 2015.
  2. The Government has no plans to change the 2Mbps universal service commitment for delivery by the end of 2015. However, many of the premises which are not yet scheduled to gain access to superfast broadband will have speeds higher than 2Mbps.
  3. The Government is looking to raise the Universal Service Obligation from dial-up speeds to 5 Mbps to ensure that no one is left behind as faster speeds become available and are more widely used. The Government will consult on this change early in the next Parliament.
  4. The Government's definition of 24Mbps for superfast broadband is based on the fact that speeds above this level can only be delivered using Next Generation Access technology. The European definition of 30Mbps has no specific technical or user basis for it. Most premises which can receive speeds over 24Mbps will also be able to receive speeds above the level of the European definition. The Government's rollout is future proofed. It is a requirement of the broadband framework contract that solutions have an upgrade path; for example, fibre to the cabinet could be upgraded to fibre to the premises if needed.
  5. As a condition of their funding for the phase two projects, local authorities will be required to provide public information on roll-out plans to 7 digit postcode level. Publishing information to address level runs the risk of being misleading given the uncertainties involved before deployment takes place.
  6. The Government is currently developing its plans for delivery of its commitment that all premises will have access to standard broadband with speeds of at least 2Mbps by the end of 2015. Within this, eligible premises will have access to satellite services which can provide superfast broadband speeds.

While it is natural for the Rural Affairs Committee to take a rural view on the UK broadband situation, the BDUK project no matter how many times it is called rural was never JUST a rural project. It would only be that is 1/3 of UK premises were rural, and they are not only around 20% are rural. So since the original target of 90% superfast was announced, it should have been clear that the harder and more costly rural areas to reach would be missed out.

Point 4 from our summary is interesting, as while many will assume this is talking about fibre on demand only, it is referring to the fact that the standard deployment for a fibre cabinet means that the fibre support infrastructure to support a future FTTH or G.fast roll-out has made it from the exchange to near to the cabinet. Or put another way, Openreach has gone from fibre in around 5,500 exchanges to fibre to around 62,500 nodes. So while VDSL2 may be a medium term solution the ground work for a large FTTP roll-out has started, but the softly measured approach of the BT Group means no commitments beyond the current G.fast plans announced.

The vocal farming lobby was perhaps slightly assuaged recently when the Rural Payments Agency plans were scaled back and options to drop paperwork off at 50 drop-in centres put in place, citing problems with getting the mapping software by Kainos to work properly in the £154 million digital service. The talk about the system has been a mixture of failed software upgrades and software module integration along with concerns over those farms that have slow broadband not being to able interact easily with what going to be a complex system.

KC announces acceleration of its fibre roll-out

Thursday 26 March 2015 15:42:01 by Andrew Ferguson

Kingston Upon Hull which relies largely on KC for its telephone and broadband services looks set to see a much faster roll-out of the KC Lightstream service as the previous 30,000 premises planned for the next two years has now doubled to 60,000, which should mean coverage hits 105,000 in 2017.

"This is fantastic news for Hull and its growing digital economy, giving our residents and businesses – both current and future – access to state-of-the-art internet connectivity.

KC’s investment also supports us in our ambition to establish the city as a leading hub for digital technologies, alongside developments like the C4DI digital hub in the Fruit Market and the recently announced Ron Dearing University Technical College. It’s another milestone in the city of Hull’s transformation and provides the platform for further exciting developments ahead.

Councillor Stephen Brady, Leader of Hull City Council

The faster roll-out is still almost exclusively Fibre to the Home or Fibre to the Premises if you are a business and is available to some 45,000 premises already meaning that a variety of options are available with 100 Mbps being the fastest package currently.

To help understand what the roll-out means we asked KC to confirm the approximate number of premises that are inside the KC footprint and a figure of 208,000 was supplied. So while the KC roll-out accounts for around 15% of the UK FTTH footprint (175,000 Openreach, 100,000 Hyperoptic, 45,000 KC, ~1000 B4RN, ~2000 Gigaclear plus an unknown number from IFNL and others) it does mean that in terms of coverage people may have to wait longer compared to most other parts of the UK for something beyond the old ADSL2+ services. The 2 Mbps USC was met by KC sometime ago, helped by the roll-out of ADSL2+ and relatively short distances between premises and exchanges.

Gigaclear to start roll-out in Welland Valley

Thursday 26 March 2015 09:55:35 by Andrew Ferguson

The local nature of the campaigns and demand led nature of the roll-out is the key to the success of Gigaclear and the Gigabit broadband provider is now set to start the work of building its full fibre to the home network in the villages of Blaston, Bringhurst, Cranoe, Drayton, Glooston, Hallaton, Horninghold, Medbourne, Nevill Holt, Slawston and Stockerston in Leicestershire.

"I am delighted that Gigaclear has committed to bring its ultrafast fibre broadband to rural Leicestershire. The villages Gigaclear will be rolling out to include significant areas that are not part of any other commercial or subsidised plan. This investment will transform the connected lives of businesses and communities in some of the most rural parts of the County."

om Purnell, Assistant Chief Executive, Leicestershire County Council

No precise dates yet on when the first homes and businesses can expect to be live, but those in the area itself will be able to judge this a lot easier as they can follow the local dig. This roll-out will mean those premises are already satisfying the ultra-broadband broadband plan that is only a week old.

Essex agrees to sign phase 2 contract with BT for more superfast broadband

Wednesday 25 March 2015 11:08:52 by Andrew Ferguson

Essex County Council has just signed its phase 2 superfast broadband contract with BT (subject to BDUK approval apparently) and this multi-million pound contract has the aim of enabling 'up to 95% of premises in Essex to gain access to superfast broadband (determined as download speeds of 24Mbps and above)'.

The press release is a little light on precise details for the new contract, but the mention of 51,000 premises likely to benefit from the new contract does make sense. The phase 1 contract has so far benefited 25,000 premises with an eventual target of 65,000 premises by summer 2016. The press release does sometimes skip between fibre based and superfast superlatives so it is not fully clear if the number of premises is at over 24 Mbps or any speed via a fibre based (FTTC) solution. Another thing we would urge caution on is the use of 'up to 95%' in the press release, someone may have used political wording to hide a lower contracted figure.

As usual we have avoided the vagueness of the press releases and looking at the data we have for the county of Essex we can reveal how things stand currently. The only real stated aim for the phase 1 contract was 87% coverage of fibre based broadband, so superfast coverage was always going to be lower.

thinkbroadband calculation of current fibre, superfast and new USO broadband coverage in Essex - March 2015
Council Area % fibre based % superfast (>30 Mbps) % cable % Openreach FTTP % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under 5 Mbps (new USO)
Essex County (combined) 81.6% 77.2% 34.4% 0% 1% 1.5%
Basildon 92.6% 89.3% 57.7% 0% 1.2% 1.4%
Braintree 68.5% 57.8% 0% 0% 2.6% 4%
Brentwood 80.1% 76.1% 0% 0% 0.9% 2.1%
Castle Point 97.3% 93.6% 41.7% 0% 2% 2%
Chelmsford 90.9% 86.9% 46.4% 0% 1% 1.3%
Colchester 76.8% 73.3% 50.6% 0% 0.3% 0.5%
Epping Forest 96.9% 92.8% 73.9% 0% 1.7% 1.9%
Harlow 93.8% 92.4% 85.2% 0% 0.2% 0.3%
Maldon 50.7% 45.3% 0% 0% 0.9% 1.5%
Rochford 89.7% 85.1% 0% 0% 0.4% 0.5%
Southend-on-Sea 97% 96.3% 59.5% 0% 0.1% 0.2%
Tendring 75.7% 72.7% 0% 0% 1.1% 1.2%
Thurrock 94.3% 90.2% 70% 0% 1.1% 1.8%
Uttlesford 49.2% 42.8% 19.2% 0% 1.5% 1.7%

The story varies greatly across Essex with the district councils of Uttlesford and Maldon being two areas with the most scope for improvement. Chunks of Essex does have fixed wireless access available from a number of operators so the gaps may not be as big as they look if people are willing to look around and buy from names other than the big three or four who advertise on TV.

The Universal Service Obligation figure is new for this week and follows on from the announcement in the Budget for a proposed 5 Mbps USO. In theory as the fibre roll-outs continue this figure should drop further, though of course for those who the roll-outs have not helped the statistic is of little comfort since if you are in the 0.1% without a 5 Mbps service you are still unable to what many others consider to be normal for a broadband connection in 2015.

£5 to £20 plans on BT Mobile as new service launches

Wednesday 25 March 2015 09:33:46 by Andrew Ferguson

As rumoured BT Mobile has launched with three SIM only plans, with a price range of £5 to £20 for existing BT Broadband homes. If you like one of their bundles but don't have BT Broadband there will be a £5 supplement to pay, all the pricing we are quoting is for BT Broadband customers. A page with the standalone pricing on it is available.

  • BT Mobile 500 MB Plan, 500 MB of 4G data, unlimited texts and 200 minutes of calls. Unlimited BT Wi-Fi. £5 per month on a 12 month contract.
  • BT Mobile 2 GB Plan, 2 GB of 4G data, unlimited texts and 500 minutes of calls. Unlimited BT Wi-Fi. £12 per month on a 12 month contract.
  • BT Mobile 20 GB Plan, 20 GB of 4G data, unlimited texts and unlimited calls. Unlimited BT Wi-Fi. £20 per month on a 12 month contract.

BT Broadband homes are allowed up to five mobile phones under these plans all on a single bill. While 4G data is the big promotion, the data will also work in 3G, Edge or GPRS areas too.

BT Sport is available via an app if using an app compatible handset, and even with the £5 supplement for non-BT Broadband customers, the entry level plan might be an attractive way for sports fans to get access to BT Sport content, albeit only on a mobile and given the amount of data streaming video uses you will want to use Wi-Fi mainly. On iOS or Android the app should support casting the video stream to a Chromecast to give you the big screen feel.

More plans are expected, and the BT Shop has a range of unlocked handsets where BT Mobile customers can use their confirmation code to get a £50 discount on the standard shop prices, e.g. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini drops from £219 to £169 if people use their discount code (people may want to shop around on handsets as Amazon has the S4 mini for £174). An entry level 4G phone is available for £149 (£99) the Huawei Ascend Y550.

The acquisition of EE for £12.5 billion is still on-going and it is expected that if approved and completed more information will appear on what BT and EE customers will get from that purchase.

Poll Results: Is Government money on superfast advertising worth it?

Tuesday 24 March 2015 14:28:23 by Andrew Ferguson

We ran a poll a few weeks ago looking at what people thought of the DCMS sponsored Superfast Broadband advertising that has been doing the rounds on billboards and TV adverts.

Poll Results: What people think of DCMS Superfast Broadband Advertising
Click image for full size version

The reaction from over 1,600 of our visitors can be seen above, and with only 14.1% giving a positive Yes response there are questions that need to asked about how useful the campaign that cost several million pounds to run was. The level of firm No responses was 61%, with 17.9% not sure and the remainder sitting in the no opinion camp.

Poll Results: Ratio of respondents saying they can get superfast at home
Click image for full size version

We did wonder if the responses might be split based on whether people could get superfast broadband or not, hence the second question above, which then allowed us to split down the responses to the first question. For those who can get superfast broadband those who thought the money was well spent rose to 17%, and for those who cannot get superfast it dipped to 9.8%.

Poll Results: Are you using a superfast broadband service at home?
Click image for full size version

The final question about whether you were using a superfast broadband service at home indicates that amongst our visitors take-up of superfast broadband is pretty high, which as a broadband information site is no real surprise. Cross analysing the questions indicated that 79% of those who can get superfast at home are actually using it, and while the initial opinion of our visitors was negative towards the Government policy, the fact that take-up is so high amongst a group that are very likely to be early adopters and tech-informers should be encouraging.

Reflecting the general comments that arose when the TV adverts for superfast broadband where on TV and that only 1 in 8 people think the money was well spent, if the Government and the local projects are wanting to drive take-up and convert people from ADSL or ADSL2+ to a fibre based solution then a more local campaign highlighting the actual availability in different areas might do better. The various local authority projects are undertaking various activities, other aimed at the SME sector where the day to day running of a business may mean that checking broadband availability is low on their priority list.

The theory is that the fibre based broadband roll-outs are following the pattern of the ADSL roll-outs, this should mean 2015 and 2016 will be key years as demand and as take-up increases there will be a natural fading of the ADSL and ADSL2+ products from view. It is very likely that this ten year cycle will do more for take-up than a number of generic TV adverts, which may have even been sandwiched by adverts for the commercial fibre based services anyway.

Voting is open in ISPA Awards Customer Choice category

Tuesday 24 March 2015 09:37:36 by Andrew Ferguson

It does not feel like a year since writing the last news item letting everyone know that voting in the Customer Choice category was open, but it is time to get you all to head over to ispa.thinkbroadband.com/vote and rate the numerous providers who have entered the category where their customers rather than the judges make the decision.

The 2015 ISPA Awards are due to be presented on 2nd July 2015, and one person who rates their provider will be given a pair of tickets to the awards ceremony in London. Testing in the technically tested categories, broadband, hosting and VoIP has been underway for a month now and will be used to shortlist the entrants for the final judging by the panel of judges.

2015 has seen the largest number of entrants across the board, which means that competition is going to be fierce.

FT leaks news that BT Mobile plans will appear this week

Sunday 22 March 2015 12:00:56 by Andrew Ferguson

The Financial Times has indicated that they are expecting BT to publish details of its first mobile bundles next week.

With 4G expected to play a large part and mobile phones hoping on to BT Wi-Fi when available there is some scope for interesting bundles as the product develops, but as this is a retail operation we are not expecting there to be free bundling involved as this would further complicate the recent fibre service margin squeeze test.

Virgin Media and TalkTalk are already in the quad-play space, so one would expect Sky to join this party too, particularly as the evidence shows that once you get people into a large product bundle people are a lot stickier in terms of the time they remain a customer.

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