Sunday, 11 March 2012

Broadband: Forget Superfast, Ultrafast is the Future

VIRGIN Media's 100Mb broadband went live this week.

Potential customers should form an orderly queue clutching their postcodes.

At present the service Virgin Media insist on calling 'ultrafast' is only available in a few locations:

Heckmondwike, West YorkshireFarnborough, HampshireColchester, Essex andBarry, South Wales

"The launch of our 100Mb service is a significant milestone in the UK's broadband evolution and a vivid illustration of the power of our next generation network," said Neil Berkett, the ISP's chief executive officer.

"In the space of just ten years, Virgin Media has led the greatest developments in digital Britain."

The small nature of the initial launch area suggests that the product will be carefully watched to ensure that there are no teething issues before roll-out to wider swathes of the nation.

All other areas not activated at present will have to wait until at least next year to receive the new 100Mb broadband service.

However, Virgin Media's own roll-out timeline indicates that the next swathe of towns won't be activated until March 2011.

Those looking for the UK's fastest broadband will just have to twiddle those thumbs at superfast speeds until then.

Superfast, pah!

The launch of Virgin Media 100Mb service is well-timed.

Earlier in the week, Jeremy Hunt, the coalition's Culture Secretary, announced plans to bequeath Europe's best broadband network to the UK by 2015.

"Our broadband infrastructure is towards the middle rather than at the head of the pack," said Hunt, in a speech to think tank Reform.

"Only 15% of UK subscribers currently have speeds above 5Mb, compared with 65% in South Korea. And only 0.2% of UK households had a superfast broadband connection at the end of last year - compared to 12% in Sweden and 34% in Japan... These are all big challenges."

Mr Hunt must be happy that 'ultrafast' is taking over, or at least starting up.

It will certainly help towards meeting the Coalition's aim and they didn't have to do anything or, crucially, spend a penny of their £830 million kitty.

The planned BT fibre network is far more likely to bid for some of that cash.

Pricing 100Mb

According to a Virgin Media, "A typical family will be able to get the new ultrafast service for as little as £35 a month when bought in a bundle, or just £45 per month when bought as a sole product."

We're not sure whether £35 or £45 a month can be described as 'just' or 'as little as'.

The UK's cheapest broadband is currently about £15 including the landline or £180 a year; with a landline Virgin's 100Mb service is £46.99 a month or £563.88 a year.

Nevertheless these products represent good value for money within the context of the current superfast, ultrafast, slimfast, whatever, broadband market.

In addition, the new service is unrestricted both in terms of traffic shaping and because it lacks a fair use policy which, coupled with those speeds, will make it one of the best broadband deals for downloads.

Virgin Media have even chucked in up to 10Mb upload speeds, the UK's fastest upload.

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Virgin Media Bundle £60 With Broadband

70% Will Have Super-fast Broadband by 2017

Friday, 9 March 2012

Report Highlights Serious Mobile Broadband Issues

Plusnet increase line rental to £12.99

£50 with Virgin Media Broadband Bundles Returns

BT Boosts Rural Superfast Broadband Hopes

Tortoise or Hare? O2 or Virgin?

YOU remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. And, if you don't, you'll remember this: slow and steady wins the race.

It's pushing it a bit to call O2 slow and steady - they're one of the faster ADSL2+ providers - but put them next to Virgin Media and, well, they go back into their shell.

So, who should you pick: Virgin or O2 broadband?

How big is the speed difference between these two? It's not to be sniffed at.

The statistics below are daily averages from Ofcom's last large-scale speed test, compared with the advertised 'up to' speeds for each deal.

In short: Virgin Media are knocking O2 out of the park.

For those in a fibre area (check Virgin Media availability here) with a large household or a fondness for streaming video those speeds should make Virgin an easy winner.

However, note that the two top O2 unlimited broadband deals - All Rounder and The Works - now offer truly unlimited downloads so, given that the cheaper Virgin Media deals have somewhat draconian fair use policies they may not be the best bet for very heavy downloaders.

The fact that Virgin Media's deals over 30Mb get the provider's superfast superhub, much better than O2's bog-standard wireless router, should also make a big difference to broadband speeds which can degrade by around 30% over a wireless connection and more with a poor quality modem.

Only O2 The Works offers one of the top wireless 'N' routers.

However, although Virgin Media beat O2 on broadband speed O2 win in the rest of our categories: price, flexibility and customer service.

O2 give big discounts to their pay monthly and PAYG mobile phone customers: about £5 off their broadband every month plus free connection, rather than a £25.53 fee.

Even without an O2 mobile, they're cheaper than Virgin but, with an O2 mobile, they beat Virgin definitively (for simplicity, we've excluded set up fees and introductory discounts in this comparison).

That's true of the most basic deals...

... but even when customers choose to go up a notch and take better broadband and more calls O2's comparative package prices are still beating Virgin's.

* note that the O2 prices are for their mobile customers, for non-O2 customers add £5.

Line rental prices

As you can see above, part of the reason that O2 is cheaper than Virgin is that their line rental prices are far lower, reducing the overall cost of their deals significantly.

Note that when you take Virgin Media broadband and phone, the provider hides the cost of their extra calls (i.e. it's always £13.90 no matter how many calls are included) and, instead, adds the extra cost to the broadband price.

The list below, then, is a guide to the approximate cost of Virgin Media line rental when you add in those extra call costs in a bundle.

As you can see, however, the cheapest O2 line rental deal doesn't come with any inclusive landline calls. That means it'll only really be good value for those who never or only very rarely use their home phone.

However, even comparing like with like, O2 consistently come out on top in terms of line rental price.

The increase of £7.90 a month would, for example, work out as an effective price increase of £94.80 a year.

Finally, though, it's well worth noting that Virgin Media are the only provider who allow home broadband users to go completely phone-line free, although ditching line rental altogether does mean an extra few pounds a month on the price of broadband.

Virgin Media contracts run for between 12 and 18 months, with the shorter contract being offered to those who don't take line rental.

The cheapest O2 contracts are also 12 months long but the provider does offer a 30-day rolling contract, albeit for a small fee.

As with all large broadband providers, both O2 and Virgin Media have had their share of bad reviews.

Neither seriously underperforms when it comes to customer service but if pushed to choose Virgin or O2 we'd go for the latter.

O2 are proud of their UK call centres and, while that doesn't necessarily equal better service, it seems to have given them the incentive to actually deliver better, faster answers to customer problems.

Still undecided? Check out our dedicated review of O2 broadband and our guide to whether or not Virgin Media is any good.

Please read the following notice:

This guide may not include all of the products available in the market.

While we make every effort to ensure and maintain current and accurate information on this site, we do not keep all guides updated and this guide may contain prices, deals or facts which have now changed.

Readers are always advised to check the full details of any product with the relevant provider before applying, as well as to conduct their own research.

We aim to provide free reviews and comparisons of consumer products. To keep the site free, we are paid by some providers when new customers take products after they've clicked on our links. We don't allow our editorial content to be affected by those links, however we may not include all of the products available in the market.

Please read our full disclaimer for other important information that relates to the information and service we provide and your use of this site.

If you would like to get in touch with us you can contact us here »

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Broadband Providers Prepare to Change Billing Models

BROADBAND providers in the UK will radically overhaul the way they bill users in order to control spiralling usage, industry insiders have claimed.

In an interview with PC Pro, Owen Cole technical director at F5 Networks, said that the rise of the iPad had made it far more likely that ISPs would start to charge for data according to device.

Users could be charged varying amounts depending on the type of device they're using for browsing and the amount of data it consumes, in a manner similar to current mobile broadband tariffs.

But while this may be the norm for mobile broadband it would mark a shift away from the fixed-line broadband providers current fixation on speed and 'unlimited' data packages and it's certainly a threat to the 'neutral net', insofar as it exists currently.

iPriority

After the iPad's introduction, all mobile operators offering the 3G version of the device created iPad specific tariffs as its users were expected to consume more data than other devices such as smartphones.

The effect of the iPad however has been to reassure network operators that new devices were capable of driving a huge amount of new data usage particularly streaming video, across both fixed line wi-fi and 3G mobile networks.

The traffic from these devices is identified and billed as iPad traffic.

At present, this doesn't appear to give iPad users any advantages but mobile operators could in theory allow them to pay a small premium for their iPad tariff which would see all their traffic prioritised across the network.

Owen Cole, technical director at F5 Networks said, "The operators said, 'If we have devices that are generating work for us, this gives us the ability to introduce a different billing model.'"

"If things are left to just be driven by market economics, we could end up with people paying for the amount of data that they consume to every device and that would not be a fair way to approach the market."

In other words, it could mean the advent of broadband bills each month itemising normal browsing, emails and the like and separate, higher, charges for streaming video or downloading large files.

These higher charges would be incurred in order to ensure that streams of video and other time-sensitive content didn't get lost among the hordes of web traffic.

Berners-Lee: 'Don't even go there'

There are fears however that further new tariff structures would deal net neutrality a perceptible blow, none voiced more clearly than those of father-of-the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

At a recent government round-table on the issue Berners-Lee is reported to have 'shot-down' BT who argued that the net can self-regulate, a point of view shared by Ofcom and other big ISPs.

Instead, Berners-Lee wants to see a net neutrality goal set by Ofcom and government.

BT, the largest broadband provider in the UK has previously indicated its preference to allow content providers to be charged to offer their services priority over broadband networks.

BT along with the other top five largest broadband providers control around 95% of the UK broadband market.

Campaigners fear that if network neutrality protection is left to the industry to self-regulate it would mean that the biggest networks would be able to exert too much control over web access in the UK.

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Ofcom Urges Changes to 'Misleading' Broadband Speeds Ads

MPs to mobile broadband providers: stop 4G auction squabbling

MOBILE broadband operators have been heavily criticised in a report released by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee for severely delaying the auction of 4G spectrum.

Last month, Ofcom revealed that it was pushing back the 4G auctions from the first half to the latter part of 2012, after it was unable to settle squabbles between providers.

O2 and Vodafone have both launched legal challenges to Ofcom's proposed rules for the auction, which are meant to ensure that 3 can secure a slice of the tasty, tasty 4G spectrum pie.

"Ofcom has had a very difficult job adjudicating between competing and polarised interests and we are concerned that constant disagreement and special pleading from the four mobile network operators appears to have further delayed the spectrum auction," said the Committee Chair, John Whittingdale MP.

"We believe that the basic rules for the auction which Ofcom has laid down are sensible and fair and that further delays will result in the UK falling further behind in this vital area. The auction needs to proceed as soon as possible."

Grassroots broadband

In addition, the report highlighted the need for improved access to mobile broadband services across rural Britain.

MPs said they found the "imposition of a 95% coverage obligation to be unambitious" and demanded that the target for 4G services be raised to 98% of the population.

4G mobile broadband services could provide a much cheaper solution for rural areas which lack fast broadband services at present and the Government is keen to utilise the format to meet its universal service commitments.

Whittingdale, "We believe that Ofcom needs to go further than it currently proposes by setting a condition that at least one of the new licence holders must achieve 98% coverage across the country."

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance told The Telegraph new window that, "The Alliance believes that the current lack of reliable broadband is one of the greatest threats to the growth of the rural economy.

"...the Government should hasten the roll-out of rural broadband, as well as ensuring the sale of spectrum enables the countryside to compete in a growing digital economy."

Using any extra funds to invest into achieving the 98% coverage the report calls for could well be a way to boost rural broadband provision without placing too much burden on any one of the mobile broadband providers.

However, one further issue thrown up by the report is the concern that Everything Everywhere will be profiting from the sale of an asset formerly in the hands of the public.

The Committee wanted Ofcom to ensure that "at least some" of the profit provided public benefit.

Please read the following notice:

This is a news article. As we don't update any news articles it may contain prices, deals or facts which are no longer available or are now inaccurate.

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ASA Bans BT ad but Fails to Crackdown on Speeds

BT Offer Talk + Surf Plus for Less

Government Plans to Reduce the Digital Divide

BT Broadband Sales Skyrocket

BT's broadband division will be lapping up the champagne as the company reveals a massive increase in new broadband subscribers between October and December.

That brings BT's total broadband customer base up to a cool 5,529,000.

According to BT Group's latest financial results, the quarter ending December 31st saw the largest single increase in new customers for eight years and gave the provider a market share of 53%.

The previous quarter also saw a substantial increase of 114,000 subscribers, not bad for a provider that has been synonymous with iffy broadband deals and poor service in the minds of consumers over the past few years.

Turnaround

Shareholders will undoubtedly also be delighted by the news that BT Wholesale has finally managed to reverse its decline in broadband lines. Figures for the last quarter showed an increase of 9,000, making a total of nearly eight million.

BT's seemingly unstoppable triumph doesn't end there.

Sales of unbundled (LLU) telephone lines are also up by 347,000 for the last quarter, taking the total to 7,490,000.

The group's broadband television service, BT Vision, attracted 40,000 customers in the same period, compared to the previous quarter's increase of 24,000.

In all, analysts predicted that the three month to December 31st would see pre-tax profits of £495 million.

The actual figure stands at £530m.

Ian Livingston, BT's CEO, said: "Profits and cash flow in the quarter were ahead of last year. BT Retail had a good quarter with growth in business revenues and our highest share of DSL broadband net additions for eight years...

"These results show that we are making progress on a number of fronts. There is always more to do but our performance underpins our outlook for this year and the period to 2012/13."

What about fibre?

Absent from BT's financial stats is any mention of its Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) superfast broadband service.

BT Infinity currently offers broadband speeds of up to 40Mb by delivering a fibre optic line to users' street cabinets and then deploying a "last mile" broadband service to homes through the use of VDSL2 technology.

Results from the third quarter showed that BT Retail had attracted 38,000 FTTC customers and was increasing their numbers by around 4,000 per week.

Forward-thinking BT also plans to roll-out its Fibre-to-the-Home/Premises (FTTH/P) service in the near future. This will see cable delivered directly into homes and premises via pure fibre optic lines, which handle pulses of light that can be converted into data.

This could potentially enable speeds of up to 110Mb.

Please read the following notice:

This is a news article. As we don't update any news articles it may contain prices, deals or facts which are no longer available or are now inaccurate.

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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Vodafone get Back to Home Broadband

BT Infinity Dismissed in an Instant

BT Infinity vs Virgin Media XXL

THEY'RE the biggest broadband providers offering the fastest fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) internet access in the UK but which one's the best?

The good news is that a little competition has done both companies good.

Both BT and Virgin Media are desperate for your business and there's an option to suit almost every household in terms of price and downloads.

So, first things first: who does the fastest broadband cheapest?

Here are the current cheapest options for both providers:

As you can see, by this basic measure, BT are currently winning on price.

However, the reason they can charge less is that their cheapest option comes with a 40GB download limit, unlike Virgin Media's service which is unlimited.

Do downloads matter?

40GB isn't a small allowance and it should suffice for those that largely want superfast to stream a good few hours of video a night without interruption, as well as surfing and checking emails.

For P2P lovers, gaming or streaming addicts, however, either unlimited Infinity or Virgin Media XXL are likely to be a better bet.

BT Infinity's unlimited deal comes with a fairly fair fair use policy.

XXL's fair use policy is also very lenient: only those who have had the upload speed upgrade to 5Mbp/s will have upload speeds restricted during peak times.

All in all, however, there's little difference between the two in how downloads are managed.

Ditch your phone line

Virgin Media do distinguish themselves, however, by allowing customers to sign up without a phone line, although the price cut for doing so is somewhat lower than you might expect.

Virgin Media XXL without home phone is £30 a month for the first three months and £35 a month thereafter.

BT Infinity's cheapest deal is just a few pounds more but ditching your home phone line means potentially making bigger savings overall by not paying for landline calls, plus avoiding any future price increases on line rental from either provider.

More on broadband without a phone line »

One provider advertises up to 50Mb and the other one only up to 40Mb but is there actually any difference in reality?

The technical difference between BT and Virgin Media resides in how their respective superfast networks connect to your home.

BT's 'up to 40Mb' Infinity broadband service uses superfast fibre optics to link together BT exchanges and green street cabinets, creating a fibre-to-the-cabinet network.

From there, BT connect to your home via a normal copper phone line, referred to as 'the last mile'.

Virgin Media have a separate fibre optic network which runs underneath the pavements of the areas in which it is installed (remember the chaos of all that digging?) and then there's a short stretch of more efficient coaxial cable that connects a customer's home to the fibre connection outside.

This also helps to explain why BT advertises it services as 'up to' 40Mb - it doesn't know exactly how far away your house is from the street cabinet.

Close by and you could receive 35-40Mb, further away and perhaps only 25-30Mb, a possibility Virgin have been keen to play up ever since the BT Infinity launch.

Virgin Media likes to gloat that it can always guarantee an advertised speed thanks to the close proximity of its fibre to every customer's home.

Future speeds

However, the advertised speeds on a package like BT Infinity are likely to increase as BT will gradually deploy new technologies to boost speeds in years to come.

In fact, BT has already announced that it will be upping the maximum speed of its 'up to 40Mb' packages to 'up to 80Mb' fairly shortly.

Virgin Media has also launched a 100Mb package which was, in turn, trumped by BT, who began pimping a 110Mb fibre-to-the-home deal.

Finally, both Virgin Media and BT are big on broadband bundles - phone, broadband and TV all on one bill - and focusing on finding the best one is often a larger practical concern than worrying about a few Mb difference in speeds.

As you can see from our Virgin or Sky guide, it's a tricky question.

BT vs Virgin TV

Both Virgin Media and BT offer TV deals through their cable network to really make the most of their superfast speeds. We go into both in more detail in our BT broadband, phone & Vision review and is Virgin Media any good guide.

Both offer a large range of on-demand content, at least some of which is free to all customers, all the core Freeview channels and movies or Sky sports for an additional monthly fee.

However, Virgin Media has the edge for the sheer number of channels available - 175 with TV XL - and its TiVo box, one of the top set-top boxes on the market.

Please read the following notice:

This guide may not include all of the products available in the market.

While we make every effort to ensure and maintain current and accurate information on this site, we do not keep all guides updated and this guide may contain prices, deals or facts which have now changed.

Readers are always advised to check the full details of any product with the relevant provider before applying, as well as to conduct their own research.

We aim to provide free reviews and comparisons of consumer products. To keep the site free, we are paid by some providers when new customers take products after they've clicked on our links. We don't allow our editorial content to be affected by those links, however we may not include all of the products available in the market.

Please read our full disclaimer for other important information that relates to the information and service we provide and your use of this site.

If you would like to get in touch with us you can contact us here »

Avanti: Satellite Should hot up UK's Broadband Notspots

Vaizey Defends Broadband Providers Blocking Sites

£100 M&S Vouchers with Sky Return

Monday, 5 March 2012

Virgin Media: Stop the Broadband Speed Con

VIRGIN Media have called on other broadband providers to 'stop the broadband con' and display what it describes as 'honest' broadband speeds.

Unsurprisingly, other broadband providers weren't too happy at being described as con artists and went to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which upheld the vast majority of their complaints and ruled that the ads could not be shown again in their original form.

But did Virgin Media have a point?

In November 2010 Virgin Media launched a campaign mini-site called 'stop the broadband con'.

"Many [broadband providers] are advertising superfast broadband speeds they know full well they cannot deliver, offering speeds of 'up to' 20Mb but delivering an average of just 6.5Mb," Virgin Media founder Richard Branson wrote in an open letter on the site.

There was, of course, a large dollop of self-interest in the campaign: Virgin Media's fibre network delivers faster speeds with less interference over longer distances than ADSL. It still doesn't always deliver advertised speeds, but it does come closer than most.

According to the Ofcom report immediately preceeding the campaign, where Branson got that 6.5Mb figure, Virgin Media XXL, an up to 50Mb service, delivered speeds of 31.8Mb to 35.2Mb at peak times and 45.9Mb to 47.4Mb off peak.

The provider is well known for making high speeds a virtue, even managing to persuade many existing customers to trade up.

In August 2011 an Ofcom report found that 75% of Virgin Media customers currently on 30Mb+ deals had upgraded from the provider's slowest 10Mb broadband.

All in all, any change in the rules would likely benefit Virgin Media more than most ISPs.

In that same vein, the campaign was also a direct attack on Virgin Media competitors.

Later in his letter, Branson referred to the "fairytales and broken promises" of UK broadband providers - a clear reference to Sky's long-running fairytale-themed ad campaign.

Without honesty about broadband speeds, Branson said, "there's little incentive for companies to invest in better services and improve your broadband."

A comment which implies, of course, that consumers don't notice how fast their broadband actually is - just what the advert said when they bought it.

Practice what they preach?

Although they don't say so explicitly, we presume that Virgin Media were rooting for broadband providers to display average, rather than 'up to' (or best possible), broadband speeds.

Funny, then, that at the time they didn't always do so themselves.

The provider's ADSL packages, for example, were only displaying 'up to' speeds, just like other providers, when the 'con' campaign launched.

In one sense, Virgin Media's advert was in a grand old broadband tradition.

There's no shortage of people willing to criticise 'up to' claims in broadband speed advertising.

But Sky and BT weren't really defending 'up to'.

Instead, the complaints were largely concerned with how fair Virgin's comparisons with its two biggest competitors were, rather than the sentiment.

Too harsh

Sky told the ASA that the ads amounted to an "unjustified denigratory attack" on other ISPs.

The ASA agreed. "We considered the ad went beyond highlighting the disparity... and that it implied other ISPs dealt with consumers dishonestly in relation to broadband speeds," their judgement read.

Unfair comparisons

A Sky spokesperson argued that since all broadband providers give consumers an individual line speed estimate (as they're required to under Ofcom's voluntary code of practice) the current system allows new customers to make an informed decision.

However, as Virgin Media argued, line speed estimates aren't easy to compare without consumers putting in a considerable amount of time (and in the case of providers like TalkTalk getting a sales call for their trouble).

Virgin must have been pleased when, a few weeks after the ASA decision on their ads, Ofcom called for an end to 'up to' speed ads.

Under Ofcom's voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds providers should explain to customers that the speeds that they'll receive are likely to be lower than the headline speed advertised. Most do.

Broadband providers are also required to provide a more accurate estimate of line speed when consumers sign up for broadband by checking their postcode and home phone number.

'Up to' may not be ideal but it's also not the whole picture.

Clearly we need to have a debate about what broadband speeds - as advertised - are understood to mean and whether they sufficiently hold broadband providers to account.

As to whether there's a better way to advertise broadband speeds, that's a question to which Virgin don't appear to have an answer.

Please read the following notice:

This is a news article. As we don't update any news articles it may contain prices, deals or facts which are no longer available or are now inaccurate.

Please read our full disclaimer for other important information that relates to the information and service we provide and your use of this site.

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This Week's £100 Reasons to Join Sky

TalkTalk Picks up Another Wooden Spoon for Complaints

£5 off Mobile Broadband for Orange Customers

BT Accused of Creating 'Two-tier' Broadband

Virgin Media Bring 100Mb to Four Million Homes

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Consumer Panel: Forget 4G, How About Some Phone Signal?

A LEADING consumer group has demanded that the millions of people without 2G mobile phone signal are tended to before existing connections are upgraded to faster 4G speeds.

Ofcom has been told by MPs that it needs to increase 4G mobile coverage to 98% to prepare for the upcoming radio spectrum auction, due to be held next year.

But the Communications Consumer Panel (CCP) claims that the auction should be used as an opportunity to upgrade the remainder of the network rather than focusing on faster networks for those who already have a connection.

Lack of 2G connections

The Panel states that regulator Ofcom is responsible for extending data services to more rural areas before it carries out any infrastructure upgrade to urban areas.

It claims that the funds raised by selling airwaves in next year's radio spectrum auction should be used to ensure that every UK area has some access to a mobile voice or data connection.

The industry watchdog also estimates that up to three million UK residents live in a mobile 'not-spot' - meaning that they are without even a 2G connection.

Although the next-generation 4G connection will provide smartphone users with crucial faster speeds, it seems unfair when a large portion of the population have no connection whatsoever.

Not-spots around the UK

CCP chair Bob Warner said, "Most places that were mobile coverage notspots 10 years ago are still notspots today and the spectrum auction represents perhaps the only chance we have in the next decade to improve coverage in the nations and for rural communities."

The cost of achieving 98% mobile coverage throughout the country would be approximately £250m, which is substantial but only a small percentage of the amount expected to be generated by the auction.

The target for coverage currently stands at 95% by 2017, meaning that millions of people could be left waiting for some form of mobile coverage for at least another 5 years.

It is thought that one of the major notspots for mobile coverage in the country is on the rail networks, with research from Ofcom suggesting that there was only a 10% chance of maintaining a 15 minute mobile phone call on the East Coast mainline.

4G will not resolve coverage problems

The CCP does not have a problem with achieving 98% 4G coverage, but it believes that it is nearly impossible as the networks have built as many 2G and 3G masts as possible. Therefore, if the infrastructure were to be upgraded to 4G, those people with poor signal now would still have no mobile coverage.

The radio spectrum auction is due to take place at some point in the first six months of 2012, and will be the largest ever as it will see the release of 80% more than what was released in 2000.The 4G services are then expected to roll out in 2013.

Should the money raised from the auction not be ploughed back into the mobile networks, it will be a significant windfall for the Treasury.

And Ofcom will have a challenge trying to prize cash from the purse once they have their hands on it.

Please read the following notice:

This is a news article. As we don't update any news articles it may contain prices, deals or facts which are no longer available or are now inaccurate.

Please read our full disclaimer for other important information that relates to the information and service we provide and your use of this site.

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Sky Launch Free TV for Mobile Devices

Three Announce Unlimited Mobile Broadband for PAYG

BT Step Closer to Open Broadband Network

Clash of the Super-fast as BT Launch Infinity Broadband

THE race to superfast broadband heated up this week with the launch of BT broadband's long-awaited up to 40Mb broadband service, Infinity.

The new super-fast packages are the first stage of BT's £1.5 billion investment in broadband and will be available to 500,000 homes by the end of January.

4 million households should be able to receive the service by the end of the year.

Catching Virgin Media

Not everyone has greeted the announcement with open arms, however.

Unsurprisingly, BT arch-rival Virgin Media were particularly scathing.

"We're not sure why people in the UK would want to wait for BT's 40Mb service... when they can already get Virgin Media's great value 50Mb service," said a spokesperson for the provider.

Price

One answer could be the price of the new service: BT Infinity's Option 1 and Option 2 broadband deals cost £19.99 and £24.99 a month respectively, significantly cheaper than Virgin Media's XXL which costs £28 a month with Virgin Media line rental and £38 a month without it.

It is perhaps because of this disparity that Virgin Media have bitten back at the BT service so viciously.

They've been quick to scoff at the 20GB download limit on BT Infinity Option 1 which - they claim - would be breached after downloading just 4 HD movies in a month.

Even the 'unlimited' BT Infinity Option 2 is subject to BT's usual 'fair & acceptable use' caveat.

The BT FUP operates a 4pm-midnight p2p traffic management policy during the week and 9am-midnight at weekends in an effort to curb the effect of file-sharing on its network.

Virgin Media XXL is a completely unlimited service.

BT fought back - stating that there are customers who simply want to upgrade the speed of their broadband without necessarily changing their surfing habits - but this seems a little dishonest: most broadband users find that with greater speed their surfing habits change.

On the other hand, BT Infinity's up to 10Mb upload speed is being welcomed from all corners, not only should it make sharing large amounts of data much faster and easier, it puts Virgin Media's 1.5Mb upload speeds to shame.

It looks like the BT Infinity and Virgin Media XXL fight will run and run.

Questions of speed

Virgin Media aside, the most difficult questions about BT Infinity are coming from consumers and, in particular, the age-old question of the legitimacy of the phrase 'up to' used to advertise broadband line speeds.

In addition, one anonymous user taking part in the trial of BT Infinity angrily reported their maximum speed at around 15Mb.

"In what world should we allow someone to advertise something as "up to". That means absolutely nothing," the user said, an opinion on 'up to' many share.

BT's new Infinity packages will offer an up to 40Mb broadband connection by means of new fibre optic cables running to the green street cabinets from the local exchange. The same copper wires are used to complete the final leg of the journey from the cabinet to your house.

Virgin Media also use Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology although - of course - they say that the DOCSIS 3.0 technology used for their last copper-mile gives them the edge over BT.

For more information, read our full review of the BT Infinity service here.

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Ofcom to Providers: Rollover on Unfair Broadband Contracts

Ofcom have banned so-called 'rollover' broadband contracts which automatically renew unless customers opt-out.

The regulator had previously indicated that it was concerned that rollover contracts make switching broadband and phone providers harder and more costly or stop consumers switching broadband deals.

As of December, customers won't be able to get tied into another long-term contract without their explicit consent.

By December 2012, those currently on automatically renewing contracts must have the terms of their deal changed.

Approximately 15% of British broadband and calls customers have an automatic renewal which imposes a fine for early cancellation unless the customer has previously opted out.

BT is, by far, the worst offender despite the fact that it's also one of the few providers still clinging on to 18-month contracts.

TalkTalk and Orange have both switched to 12-month contracts recently in an effort to attract more customers.

Paying the penalty

Customers with broadband and home phone contracts will typically have signed up for an initial 12 or 18 month period which then continues on a monthly rolling contract basis after the time is up.

If they then fancy switching to another provider, for example to a cheaper broadband deal, they would be free to do so without incurring a penalty for ending their contracts.

Those on rollover contracts find themselves contracted for a further 12 or 18 month period with the same supplier.

Meaning that, if they want to switch, they'd be liable to pay a weighty sum to escape the clutches of their rollover contract.

Welcomed by consumer groups

Consumer groups welcomed the regulator's ruling.

"Rollover contracts can be confusing and penalise customers," said a spokesperson from Consumer Focus.

In addition, automatic renewal has been found to act as a barrier to consumers who want to switch broadband or landline provider.

Senior policy advisor at Which? Dr Rob Reid agreed.

"We are pleased to hear that Ofcom has followed this policy line, one that Which? supports, despite many major telecoms providers pushing for ARCs to be maintained," he said.

Ofcom's removal of rollover contracts will open up the marketplace, making it more competitive and providing customers with the freedom to shop around.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom added that the regulator's evidence "shows that [automatically renewed contracts] raise barriers to effective competition by locking customers into long-term deals with little additional benefit.

"Our concern about the effect of ARCs and other 'lock in' mechanisms led to our decision to ban them in the communications sector."

BT bites back

BT has not taken the negativity surrounding its rollover line rental contracts lying down and has fought back saying it was disappointed with Ofcom.

A statement from the telecoms behemoth said, "Our customers tell us that they are happy with the discounts offered by these contracts and we don't believe there is any evidence that they damage competition...We have worked hard to make sure that customers understand what they are signing up to, including how the renewal works and the charges that apply if they choose to leave early.

"In exchange for these terms customers get a significantly lower price and as the renewal approaches we contact them within 30 days of the contract end date."

Julia Kukiewicz, Editor of Choose suggests consumers should weigh up the pros and cons of their broadband contract before signing up.

"Anyone signing up to a lengthy contract of any sort should make sure they consider the options presented to them carefully and ensure that they are aware of not only the potential benefits but also the potential pitfalls of 'rollover contracts'," she said.

"The last thing you want to realise when wanting to escape your current contract and switch to another broadband or phone provider, is that you are locked in for a further year and a half."

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Saturday, 3 March 2012

Broadband Spared From Spending Cuts

When will 100Mb broadband reach you?

100 and 120Mb broadband promises to be the UK's fastest widely available connection in the near future.

But when will it reach you? And is it worthwhile?

According to Virgin Media, users of 100Mb broadband service will be able to download:

A 150MB music album in 5 secondsA 1GB movie in 1.5 minutesA 5GB HD movie in 7-8 minutes

It's generally agreed, however, that the biggest benefit of a faster connection is not the seconds it shaves off downloading times but the space it makes available when two or more members of a household are carrying out heavy use activities simultaneously.

In other words, it'll stop Dad's HBO drama buffering downstairs because some numpty upstairs is downloading the latest episode of Alan Carr's Chatty Man.

Just as with Virgin Media's 50Mb service at the initial launch both Virgin and BT's 100Mb services also benefit from being truly unlimited: no fair use limits and no traffic management.

Independent Ofcom speed research hasn't yet fully investigated how fast a 100Mb service is in practice but, given that the Virgin Media's 'up to' 50Mb service achieved a day average of 45.6Mb (92% of the advertised speed) and BT's 'up to' 40Mb generally manages a 35Mb average, prospects look good.

Virgin Media hope to push out their 100Mb broadband service to their entire cable network, about 13 million homes, by mid-2012.

Starting from January 2012, 50Mb customers will be boosted to 100Mb automatically while existing 100Mb will be moved to a 120Mb deal.

You can check when your area will be upgraded here.

The move is remarkable considering that, in January 2011, just 350,000 homes could receive 100Mb and in March 2011 that rose to about a million households or 7.69% of the ISP's potential customer base.

"When we finish the roll-out of 100Mb across our network, half the country will have access to ultrafast broadband. That'll be six years ahead of EU targets," Jon James, the provider's executive director of broadband has said.

However, that's not much use to those who aren't in a Virgin Media cable area already since the ISP is less to keen to expand its network than it is to upgrade it.

But as of November 2011, BT's fibre network wasn't doing a great job at plugging the gaps.

Their 100Mb deals are available in certain areas served by just four exchanges: Bradwell Abbey, Highams Park, Chester South and York.

In these areas BT Openreach have upgraded parts of their up to 40Mb fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network, extending the fibre cable so that it also runs between the green street-side cabinets and households.

With FTTH this 'last mile' is run using an ordinary copper phone cable so, for BT, the upgrades are a long and fiddly job.

You can double check availability with the postcode checker for BT 100Mb.

How much?

When Virgin Media complete their 'double speed' upgrade they'll easily be the cheapest 100Mb provider.

Up to 50Mb broadband is currently £25.50.

BT Infinity 100Mb broadband deals start at £35 a month.

Note, however, that BT Openreach re-sell their service which has led to some price differentiation among ISPs ostensibly providing the BT service.

For example, although Zen are using the same network as BT to deliver 100Mb, they're charging more than twice as much.

Fibre Enterprise package costs £84 a month while Fibre Enterprise+ is a shocking £114.

On the other hand, Plusnet up to 40Mb fibre has always been slightly cheaper than BT, a trend which seems likely to continue with 100Mb.

Do people want 100Mb?

In March 2011 respected broadband analysts Point Topic poured some cold water on the UK's fibre development: not only are providers being slow to roll out services, they said, the roll-out was being slowed significantly by lack of enthusiasm on the part of consumers.

"Consumers are hardly breaking the doors down," said Tim Johnson, the company's chief analyst.

"The public is a bit 'once bitten, twice shy' about switching ISPs if they have had trouble in the past. People are in no hurry to move."

Unsurprisingly, though, ISPs remain upbeat.

"We think fibre's the future," said Zen's head of product management, Andrew Saunders at the launch of their 100Mb service.

"We're not sure if it's going to be in three years' time or five years' time when the tipping point will come but it's the future."

It can be hard to quantify the popularity of 100Mb services.

For example, Virgin haven't released an exact figure on the number of people who actually have a 100Mb connection, however, although it did say that just over 10,000 (1% of that million) registered for the 100Mb service on the first day it was released.

In 2008, BT predicted that by the time London kicked off its opening ceremonies in 2012 broadband users would be getting 40 - 60Mb speeds.

Virgin Media promised it'd would bring out 200Mb by the same time: Chief Executive Neil Berkett said in The Guardian that by the time the Olympics rolled into town, Virgin Media "will have the technical capability of delivering speeds 40 times faster than today's current average broadband speed.

We're getting pretty close to that deadline now and 40Mb for all (or even for the majority) looks distinctly unlikely; 200Mb even more so.

Please read the following notice:

This guide may not include all of the products available in the market.

While we make every effort to ensure and maintain current and accurate information on this site, we do not keep all guides updated and this guide may contain prices, deals or facts which have now changed.

Readers are always advised to check the full details of any product with the relevant provider before applying, as well as to conduct their own research.

We aim to provide free reviews and comparisons of consumer products. To keep the site free, we are paid by some providers when new customers take products after they've clicked on our links. We don't allow our editorial content to be affected by those links, however we may not include all of the products available in the market.

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TalkTalk Bring Back £3.25 Broadband

Roam Europe Without Paying the Earth

THANKS to a little encouragement from the EU, it's now possible for mobile broadband users to roam Europe without it costing the earth.

As of the 1 March, European Parliament rules on roaming agreed in June 2009 will start to be enforced.

Under those rules, it'll be illegal for mobile broadband networks to charge more than 50 Euros (£45) a month for data unless the network has specifically agreed another amount with their customer.

Of course, there's no glory in just conforming to those rules which is why UK mobile broadband giants Orange, T-mobile and Virgin have announced their cheaper deals this week along with a smattering of "just because we love our customers" marketing spin.

The networks have chosen to carry out the EU's rules in the form of pre-pay 'data bundles' rather than lower data charges across the board.

Orange's daily packages cost either £8.50 for 50MB or the - newly-announced - 2 Euros for 2MB.

Rolling monthly and one-off 30-day bundles are also available.

Virgin offer slightly more choice with four different types of 'Travel Passes' each with a data allowance available for a limited amount of time.

Virgin customers can get hold of a one-day pass offering 10MB of data for £10, while a three-day alternative offers 15MB for £15. Seven-day access is available at £30 for 30MB, while a 30-day pass offers 60MB for £60.

T-mobile are also offering a choice of four 'boosters': 3MB for £1, 20MB for £5, 50MB for £10 or 200MB for £40.

The 3MB, 20MB and 50MB Euro mobile broadband boosters will allow access for up to 24 hours after purchase and the 200MB broadband deal will last for 30 days, although it's extremely unlikely that any of the boosters will last that long.

Note that these prices are only correct as of the date at the top of this article, for more on this subject see our guide to broadband abroad.

Both rates are still far more expensive than using the same service in the UK but they should go some way to putting a stop to some of the more shocking examples of mobile broadband bill shock, one of the foremost cause for broadband complaints.

Take the unfortunate case of 22-year-old UK student William Harrison.

He landed himself with a mobile broadband bill of £8,000 after using an Orange dongle with a 3GB usage allowance in France on a six-month internship.

Harrison was seemingly unaware of Orange's roaming charges as he happily went on to use the dongle for connecting to Skype for daily chats.

After a month of usage, he received a teeth-grinding internet bill to the sum of £6,101.56.

After calling the company to block the dongle, he was punished again with a further charge of £1,547.21 to cover the cost of dongle use between the bill date and the date on which the dongle was blocked.

Unless they opt into a daily bundle, Orange mobile broadband charges its roaming customers £3 per megabyte for data or £3000 for a 1GB.

In the UK, Harrison's 3GB Orange mobile broadband only costs £5 for 1GB.

In all, although Orange, Virgin and T-mobile are clearly trying to make mobile broadband less of a potential financial disaster, they could be trying a lot harder.

Roaming data usage in general still remains costly for everything except the most basic of webpage and email usage.

It will unfortunately be some years yet before the kind of GB usage allowances that we see with local UK Mobile Broadband packages are plausible for European roaming.

Please read the following notice:

This is a news article. As we don't update any news articles it may contain prices, deals or facts which are no longer available or are now inaccurate.

Please read our full disclaimer for other important information that relates to the information and service we provide and your use of this site.

If you would like to get in touch with us you can contact us here »

UK to Have Best Broadband in Europe by 2015

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Broadband Providers Threaten BT Boycott Over Fibre Prices

4G Mobile Broadband: UK lags Behind as Ofcom Frets

SUPERFAST mobile broadband services won't come to UK shores until at least 2013, Ofcom has confirmed.

The regulator has set the sale of the 2.4Ghz and 800Mhz wireless bands for some time in 2012.

The regulator is taking plenty of time to get the auction process right despite calls from consumers and campaigners to push the process along to see the UK catch up with the rest of the world.

4G mobile broadband services are already available in several countries around the world including Sweden, USA, Japan and Mongolia. Germany also recently completed an auction of its 4G spectrum.

It's a fix

The UK's four mobile operators - Vodafone, O2, Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile), and 3 - are all expected to walk away with a very similar piece of the pie after Ofcom placed limits on the amount of spectrum any one company could acquire citing "risks" to future competition if less than four operators were successful.

These rules are believed to have been drawn up in order to protect 3, the mobile phone and broadband operator which entered the market in 2002 after spending collosal sums on 3G spectrum.

The company has yet to turn a profit in its eight year history.

3's Chief Executive Kevin Russell had demanded that the rules be put in place after claiming that, "there is a risk of a strategic premium being bid to squeeze 3 out of the marketplace".

3 is relying on the 800Mhz specturm, which delivers wireless over a much larger area, to help push its services out of built-up areas into rural ones.

O2 and Vodafone both already own 900Mhz spectrum and Russell, backed up by Everything Everywhere is calling for a limit to be placed on ownership of sub-1Ghz spectrum.

Osborne's payday

Although the irony of Vodafone contributing a huge amount of cash to the Treasury would have been enjoyable, sadly there shall be no repeat of the bonanza windfall the government recieved for the 3G auction in 2000.

That auction was held at the height of the dot.com boom and netted £22.5bn for the Chancellor.

Investment in mobile broadband services suffered as a result however, with mobile broadband networks not up to scratch until many years later and operators are keen not to repeat their past mistakes. This auction is likely to raise only a tenth of the previous one.

Another countryside con?

Mobile operators say they are aiming for 4G services to extend to 95% of the population roughly in line with 3G.

Whilst this may sound like almost complete coverage, due to the low population density of rural areas such as the Lake District it actually results in large swathes of the rural map without any coverage at all.

Rural broadband campaigners have been calling for next generation mobile services to finally bring superfast broadband and mobile reception to remote locations.

It is hoped that by utilising the longer wavelength of the soon to be redundant analogue TV, 800Mhz band, 4G mobile broadband services will get to places 3G couldn't.

Improved 4G mobile phone coverage will also deliver voice services for the first time in some places, meaning if you get stuck up Hellvelyn with a Yeti after you, you may be able to call for help witout having to send smoke signals.

Please read the following notice:

This is a news article. As we don't update any news articles it may contain prices, deals or facts which are no longer available or are now inaccurate.

Please read our full disclaimer for other important information that relates to the information and service we provide and your use of this site.

If you would like to get in touch with us you can contact us here »

Seagate FreeAgent Go Special Edition Hard Drive

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Seagate FreeAgent Go Special Edition Hard Drive

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Seagate BlackArmor WS 110

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Seagate BlackArmor WS 110

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Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player

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Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player

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Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Portable Drive

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Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Portable Drive

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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Monday, 20 February 2012

Western Digital WD TV Mini Media Player

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Western Digital WD TV Mini Media Player

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Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II

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Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II

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Seagate FreeAgent XTreme External Hard Drive

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Seagate FreeAgent XTreme External Hard Drive

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Western Digital My Book Essential

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Western Digital My Book Essential

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Seagate Black Armor PS 110

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Seagate Black Armor PS 110

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Seagate Black Armor Nas 420

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Seagate Black Armor Nas 420

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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Seagate Replica

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Seagate Replica

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Seagate FreeAgent Desk External Hard Drive

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Seagate FreeAgent Desk External Hard Drive

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Western Digital My Book For Mac

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Western Digital My Book For Mac

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Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk External Drive

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Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk External Drive

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Amcor PLMB 12KE-410 Portable Air Conditioning Unit

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Amcor PLMB 12KE-410 Portable Air Conditioning Unit

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Seagate Expansion External Drives

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Seagate Expansion External Drives

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