Carphone Warehouse in its third quarter trading update has headline figures of 2.12million broadband customers, of which 412,000 are via an unbundled connection. Most of these connections are through the acquisition of AOL broadband connections, with just 540,000 Talk Talk 3 offer customers of whom 132,000 are unbundled. Talk Talk has some customers not on the current 'free' offers which brings the total number of broadband customers to 632,000. To see how the numbers have changed take a look at the last update issued in October 2006. Todays trading update can be read in full at www.cpwplc.com.
It seems the Talk Talk service has only connected 119,000 new customers in the last three months, but has boosted the number of people connected to its unbundled service by 112,000 in the same period from a lowly 20,000. Opal the unbundling arm of Carphone Warehouse is roughly halfway through its unbundling program, BT has handed over 1,100 exchanges to Opal who have unbundled 569 exchanges. The company believes it is on target to break the 1,000 unbundled exchange target in May 2007, and is even planning further expansion of its unbundled network.
In April 2006 the company hit the sweet spot in terms of price and bundling, but as we enter 2007 there are many more bundles available. Some bundles are cheaper, some more expensive, there are other double-play (telephone/broadband), some triple play (telephone/broadband/mobile or television) and even quadruple play options (telephone/broadband/mobile/television) packages all vying to take peoples custom and lock people in for 12 or 18 month contracts. As yet TV over broadband itself has not figured much, but the launch of BT Vision in December 2006 should change that.
Judging the various service providers is difficult, the time when the most problems occur are during activation, and Talk Talk by going for an unbundled voice and broadband service is risking more, and while its bundle is low priced, consumers generally do not lower their expectations of service. Hopefully in 2007 the industry as a whole will take a close look at its performance and attempt to improve customer service from the point of ordering through to the accuracy of the monthly billing. The previous year appears to have been a numbers game, with firms battling to climb up the ladder by offering ever cheaper deals or buying complete broadband providers. One big difference in 2007 will be the MAC (Migration Authorisation Code) rule changes that Ofcom are planning to announce which will give the consumer more power to vote with their feet if service does not meet their expectations.