Posted on 2020-07-24 16:58 in Features
Broadband problems hit everyone from time to time. No matter how good your service, or how reliable your provider, you will occasionally find that you are unable to connect to the internet.
There can be countless reasons why it happens. Maybe it's a problem with your ISP, or your phone line. Or maybe it's your own hardware that's at fault.
So how do you identify the cause, so that you can fix it? Here's a checklist of things to work through when your broadband goes down.
1. Check the service status
First up, grab your phone and jump online to check if your broadband provider has a problem. If it's a major provider and a widespread problem it'll probably be in the news. But most providers also have a service status page on their website that flags up any ongoing issues (see, for example, BT, Plusnet, Sky, or Virgin Media). If you're a Twitter user it's also worth following the support page for your provider so that you catch any announcements, or can easily report problems.
2. Is it a hardware problem?
If that seems to be okay, then check whether the problem is with your own hardware. If your laptop or set-top box can't connect but your phone or tablet can, try rebooting the problematic device. Failing that, try removing the Wi-Fi connection from the device, then reconnecting from scratch. (Also, have you installed any software recently that could interfere with your connection, like security software?)
3. Reboot your router
When the problem isn't device specific, reboot your router. This will force the router to try and reconnect to the internet, and will hopefully fix any problems with the Wi-Fi signal as well. If you know how to log in to your router's dashboard - or it comes with a companion app - you can do the reset on your phone or laptop. But it might just be easier to press the little reset button on the back of the router instead. The process can take a couple of minutes, so be patient.
4. Check the router connection
Still no joy? Check whether you're still connected to the router itself. If the Wi-Fi icon on your computer or phone shows a connection then you're okay - although do make sure you're connected to the right network if you've got more than one in the nearby area. If the icon shows no connection then you're looking at a Wi-Fi problem. Try a wired connection between your router and laptop if you've got a suitable cable (you might need a USB adapter as well, since modern laptops don't tend to have ethernet ports). When the wired connection works and the wireless one doesn't it would indicate that your router is at fault. It was probably supplied by your ISP, so give them a call. They'll be able to do some tests and replace it if necessary.
5. Check the router and phone line
If the router's working but you still can't get online, it's worth quickly checking that it's all still set up properly. Make sure that it's plugged in to your phone socket properly, and that the micro-filters are in place. This is unlikely to be the cause unless you've been moving it around recently. Also, use a landline phone to see if your phone line is still working.
6. Contact your broadband provider
With all that done, and still no sign of a fault on the service page, it's time to give your provider a call. The fault can have many causes. It could be a problem with your own connection, and they may be able to fix it remotely or you might need a visit from an engineer. Or it might be a wider issue, like with your street cabinet. At this point, keep an eye on your provider's downtime policy - you should be eligible for a refund or compensation if the fault isn't fixed within two working days.
As we said, broadband problems will affect everyone from time to time. But if you have ongoing problems with your provider, then read up on your rights and how to complain.
And at some point you might decide it's time to switch, and start shopping for a new broadband supplier.
Posted on 2020-07-17 16:26 in Features BT John Lewis Plusnet EE Virgin Media Sky NOW Broadband TalkTalk
A lot of broadband suppliers offer freebies to tempt you to sign up, and some of them are really worth having. They can range from cashback and bill credit, to shopping vouchers, and sometimes even tech gadgets. They change all the time, so if you're on the hunt for a new deal it's worth keeping an eye out for what's around.
But the important thing to remember is that you very often have to claim your reward separately. And you normally only get a short window in which to do so - miss it and you'll miss out!
We've got a full guide to broadband rewards and free gifts if you want to know more. Or if you just want to know how to claim your swag for many of the main providers, here's what you need to do.
How to claim Plusnet rewards
Plusnet regularly offer cashback, gift cards and reward cards to new customers. They'll send you an email within 10 days of your signing up with a link to claim your reward. You then need to claim it within two months, and should get it around 10 days later.
How to claim BT rewards
A lot of BT Broadband deals include a BT Reward Card as their special offer. This is preloaded with a cash sum that you can spend in most places that accept Mastercard payments. You can claim up to three months after your broadband is activated, and it should arrive within 30 days. Visit https://www.bt.com/manage/bt-reward-card/ to start your claim.
How to claim Sky Broadband rewards
Sky Broadband offer a range of sweeteners at various times, including a pre-paid Mastercard and high street vouchers. You get 90 days to claim your reward. If you're eligible, head over to sky.com/claim and log in with your Sky ID to start the process.
How to claim John Lewis Broadband rewards
Rewards from John Lewis Broadband include e-gift cards that can be spent at John Lewis or Waitrose. You don't need to claim this one - it should be sent via email within 60 days of the activation of your broadband service, so keep an eye on your inbox.
How to claim NOW Broadband rewards
NOW Broadband don't offer as many extra perks as other providers, but when they do have them they'll send the info on how to claim via email. You should get this within two weeks of your service being activated.
How to claim EE rewards
EE Broadband regularly offer cashback or Amazon gift cards as a reward for signing up. If you're eligible for one of the gift cards you'll be sent an email with instructions on how to claim it after your broadband goes live.
How to claim TalkTalk rewards
When TalkTalk offer rewards, they're normally either e-gift cards for specific stores or vouchers to be spent on the high street. Look out for an email with all the details, and you should receive your reward within 90 days of activation.
How to claim Virgin Media rewards
Virgin Media rewards can include bill credit, tech products or even wine, and you don't normally have to claim. The credit will be applied to your bill automatically, and any free gift will be sent out within 28 days of installation of your Virgin service.
To see what free gifts are available right now, take a look at the best broadband deals available today.
Posted on 2020-07-07 16:46 in Features Zen
If there's one thing we recommend above everything else it's that you should never stay on your old broadband deal once your contract has ended.
Now a new study from Zen Broadband has shown that people over 55 are the most likely to do exactly that - and they're leaving themselves open to being hit with massive price hikes.
The survey shows that 83% of over-55s haven't switched broadband providers in the last year, and in some cases have never switched at all. This contrasts to the under-24s who are much happier to shop around for a better deal - over half have moved to a new provider in the last 12 months alone.
Data from industry watchdog Ofcom shows that some 25 thousand people come to the end of their broadband deal every day. Anyone who remains on that same deal will be hit by an immediate price rise of as much as 60% as the introductory price they were offered comes to an end. And that's followed by further annual - and sometimes even mid-year - increases.
If you don't take action when your contract ends you can easily wind up wasting hundreds of pounds a year. It's estimated that as many as nine million of us are paying too much.
Ofcom changed the rules earlier this year to try and address the problem. Your broadband provider now has to contact you when your contract is coming to an end to let you know how much the price is about to go up, and to show you what better deals they've got to offer. The changes came into force in February, so it's still too early to know what impact they've had.
So why aren't people switching? The Zen survey shows that apathy plays a part for around a third of people. But the biggest worry for non-switchers - 43% of the over 55 group - is that they'll end up with a worse service if they move to another provider.
If you share this concern, it's worth remembering that you don't actually have to change ISPs to get a cheaper deal. At the very least you should give your existing provider a call to negotiate a better price. Have a look at what other providers are offering first, so you know the going rate, and you'll find that they'll be more than happy to give you something better in return for you committing yourself to them for another year or two.
You can also check out our customer reviews to get an idea of the kind of service you'll receive from all the main broadband suppliers.
You'll get the best deals if you're willing to change broadband suppliers, and switching is a lot easier than you might think. In most cases (the main exception being if you're moving from or to Virgin Media) your new provider will handle the entire process for you. The survey revealed that nearly half of those asked found the process easier than expected, and a huge 89% believed they had benefited from making the switch.
Are you coming to the end of your contract soon? Why not use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals available in your area today. In just a few minutes you could easily save yourself £150 or more this year.
Posted on 2020-06-16 17:08 in News Features Virgin Media Sky BT NOW Broadband
After a three month delay the Premier League season is finally set to return. It kicks off again on 17 June with a double header including the Man City - Arsenal game. With no fans allowed in the stadiums, all the remaining 92 matches will be shown live on TV, across a mix of free-to-air and premium channels.
Here's how you can watch.
How to watch Premier League games for free
For the first time ever, Premier League games will be shown live on free-to-air TV. There will be 33 free matches in all, spread across three channels.
BBC: The BBC will be showing four matches, starting with Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace on 20 June. The Beeb will also have their usual FA Cup coverage when the competition resumes on 27 June.
Amazon: Amazon have also got four games, which begin with Palace against Burnley on 29 June. You'll be able to watch these even if you aren't a Prime subscriber (although you probably will need a normal Amazon account).
Pick: The remaining 25 free games are on the Pick channel. "What is Pick?", you ask. Good question! It's a channel owned by Sky that you can watch for free on every platform. You'll find it on Freeview channel 11, Freesat channel 144, Sky channel 159 and Virgin Media channel 165.
Don't assume that it's just the less fashionable games that will be available for free. Pick will be showing the Merseyside derby on Sunday 21 June, which could be the night that Liverpool are finally confirmed as champions.
How to watch Premier League football on Sky Sports and BT Sport
If the free coverage isn't enough for you, now's the perfect time to subscribe to a premium sports channel. If you've got broadband from the likes of Sky or BT you should be able to add the channels to your existing deal, or you could even consider switching providers and making a saving on a bundle.
Sky Sports have got 39 exclusive matches (they'll also be showing the games on Pick), which begins with Aston Villa vs Sheffield Utd at 6pm on 17 June. They've got the pick of the big fixtures. They will also be covering the Championship, currently slated to resume on 20 June.
BT Sport will be showing 20 games - 12 more than they originally had - with the first seeing Watford take on Leicester at 12.30pm on 20 June. They've also got the rights to the Champions League, although there's no date yet for when that will come back.
There are four main ways to sign up to watch Premier League football on Sky Sports and BT Sport.
Sky: The most obvious way to get Sky Sports is direct from Sky, via a dish, and you can add BT Sport to your package as well. You can sign up to Sky regardless of what internet provider you use, although you should be able to save on your monthly bill by taking it as part of a bundle with Sky broadband.
Take a look at the latest Sky broadband and TV bundles.
BT: BT now offer a full BT TV service to their broadband customers. This gives you a choice of channel packages, with the sports offerings including BT Sport along with all the Sky Sports channels streamed through NOW TV. What we like about BT TV is that even though you have to take a 24 month contract, your choice of channels is flexible. So, you can sign up for the football now, then when the season ends you can switch to a movie package instead.
Check out the best BT broadband and TV bundles.
Virgin Media: You can get Sky Sports and BT Sport through Virgin Media both as a standalone service or as part of a bundle with Virgin Media broadband. Virgin offer some of the fastest broadband plans that are widely available, with speeds up to an average of 516Mb.
See the latest Virgin Media broadband and TV bundles.
NOW TV: With the streaming service NOW TV you can watch Sky Sports without a dish. It can work out a little more expensive than getting it through Sky, but that's because you don't need a contract - you can cancel at any time. NOW TV doesn't offer BT Sport. You can make further savings by getting the service with a NOW Broadband bundle.
Check the latest NOW Broadband deals.
So now you're ready for a feast of summer football. Matches take place throughout the week, at a range of kick-off times:
- Monday: 8pm
- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 6pm, 8.15pm
- Friday: 6pm, 8.15pm
- Saturday: 12:30pm, 3pm, 5:30pm, 7.45pm
- Sunday: 12pm, 2pm, 4:30pm, 7pm
About a third of the schedule has been announced so far. Here's the list of games, and where you can find them:
Wednesday 17 June
Aston Villa v Sheffield United (18:00), Sky
Manchester City v Arsenal (20:15), Sky
Friday 19 June
Norwich v Southampton (18:00), Sky and Pick
Tottenham v Manchester United (20:15), Sky
Saturday 20 June
Watford v Leicester City (12:30), BT
Brighton v Arsenal (15:00), BT
West Ham v Wolves (17:30), Sky
AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace (19:45), BBC
Sunday 21 June
Newcastle v Sheffield United (14:00), Sky and Pick
Aston Villa v Chelsea (16:15), Sky
Everton v Liverpool (19:00), Sky and Pick
Monday 22 June
Manchester City v Burnley (20:00), Sky
Tuesday 23 June
Leicester v Brighton (18:00), Sky
Tottenham v West Ham (20:15), Sky
Wednesday 24 June
Manchester United v Sheffield United (18:00), Sky and Pick
Newcastle v Aston Villa (18:00), BT
Wolves v AFC Bournemouth (18:00), BT
Norwich v Everton (18:00), BBC
Liverpool v Crystal Palace (20:15), Sky
Thursday 25 June
Burnley v Watford (18:00), Sky and Pick
Southampton v Arsenal (18:00), Sky
Chelsea v Manchester City (20:15), BT
Saturday 27 June
Aston Villa v Wolves (12:30), BT
Sunday 28 June
Watford v Southampton (16:30), Sky and Pick
Monday 29 June
Crystal Palace v Burnley (20:00), Amazon
Tuesday 30 June
Brighton v Manchester United (20:15), Sky and Pick
Wednesday 1 July
AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle (18:00), Sky and Pick
Arsenal v Norwich (18:00), BT
Everton v Leicester (18:00), Sky
West Ham v Chelsea (20:15), Sky
Thursday 2 July
Sheffield United v Tottenham (18:00), Sky
Manchester City v Liverpool (20:15), Sky
Posted on 2020-05-18 16:49 in Features
As expected, the UK's broadband network has held up pretty well in the face of the massive surge in demand caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
Despite a few high profile blips, most notably from Virgin Media and Sky Broadband, the network has been untroubled by the new normal of remote working, home schooling and daily PE lessons.
There has been a small impact. Download speeds have dropped by an average of 2%, and upload speeds by 1%, but neither is enough that you'd notice unless you're actively measuring your provider's performance on a regular basis.
Our own speed test figures for April show that the decline equated to less than 2Mb on average.
This impact of Covid-19 on broadband has been studied in a report by Ofcom. The industry watchdog installed modified routers in 1950 homes to get a clear picture of what was happening, and you can read it all in their latest UK Home Broadband Performance report.
Among the main effects of the lockdown were:
- Download speeds started to decline around the middle of March, as more people began staying at home. The decline slowed from the 23rd of the month after Netflix reduced their video streaming quality.
- Speeds during working hours fell by around 1-2%, with a slightly bigger drop during peak evening hours.
- Virgin Media was the worst affected, with their average download speeds dropping by 6% at 8pm, and their upload speeds falling by over 4% between 3pm and 5pm. However, the faster speeds they offer on their services mean that customers would still be unlikely to be overly inconvenienced.
- Netflix speeds were 4% lower before 6pm, likely due to increased use by kids off school, but 1% higher than usual in the evening - as a result of the lower streaming quality Netflix put in place.
- Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Twitter all saw an increase in latency of up to 4%, meaning slightly slower connections to the services, or potentially a little more lag in video calls.
On the whole, the impact is encouragingly slight, given the way broadband usage has rocketed during the last couple of months. BT figures showed that daytime use soared by more than 60% in the first week after the restrictions were put in place.
While things are starting to ease a little, it looks as though the lockdown will be with us for some time yet. If you have any questions about broadband during the pandemic - whether about working from home, switching providers or keeping yourself entertained - you'll find the answers in our ongoing coronavirus series:
Graph source: Ofcom, using data provided by SamKnows. Graph shows the percentage change between week closing 2 March 2020 and week closing 23 March 2020; higher values are better; results are derived from tests to SamKnows' off-net London servers using 3 parallel TCP sessions for 10 seconds.
Posted on 2020-05-12 16:56 in Features EE Sky BT Zen
For lots of us, the internet is a major source of entertainment, or a tool that enables us to work from home. For millions of older people it's a lifeline, the main way to keep in touch with the family, and interact with the outside world at a time when this is otherwise not possible. A good broadband service is vital.
So whether you're shopping for yourself, or seeking out broadband for an elderly parent, what are the priorities you need to look out for?
Reliability and support
We're all a lot more reliant on online shopping at the moment, especially snagging those all too scarce supermarket delivery slots. For a lot of older people renewing prescriptions, managing state pensions, paying the TV license, and lots of other things are important online activities, too.
For this reason, reliability is perhaps the most important point to consider. You need a broadband service that works whenever you need it, and also one that won't cut you off when you hit a data limit. These limits are fortunately quite scarce now, though if you're shopping at the budget end of the market you might still encounter them.
Customer service is also important. If you do experience any problems you need to be confident that your provider will fix them as quickly as possible.
Our Customer Reviews page contains feedback and ratings from thousands of broadband users. It's an ideal way to find out what kind of service each provider offers, and what problems you might face with them. Right now, Zen Broadband top the list for customer satisfaction, although if you'd be more comfortable with a mainstream brand EE rate well, gaining the lowest level of complaints according to a recent Ofcom study.
Speed might be less important for a lot of older users, but it really depends on what they want to do online.
There's no one-size-fits-all solution. For every older person who is a reluctant technology user, you'll find others who are enthusiastic online shoppers and Facebook posters, alongside those happily working their way through the Netflix catalogue.
There are options for all groups. Anyone who receives pension credit and has minimal internet needs can apply for the BT Basic + Broadband plan. It's cheap, but comes with a very low data allowance so isn't suitable for anything more than the absolute basics.
Beyond that, a basic standard broadband package - which uses a BT phone line - will usually work out the cheapest. It's fine for simple things like email, browsing and shopping, as well as for video calls with the family. It's worth considering if you're in a one computer household. A basic fibre deal, which is faster and allows for a wider range of uses including watching TV, as well as more simultaneous users, typically starts at around £5 a month extra.
Phone calls and TV
The extras you can take with a broadband deal are also important to consider. Most broadband services need a phone line - with line rental included in the price - and many providers give the option to buy a call plan as part of the deal. The plans on offer usually allow a choice of either unlimited calls during evenings and weekends, or unlimited calls anytime.
These can be tempting during a time when staying in touch with family is so important, but don't assume it's a must-have. If you don't take a call plan you'll still be able to make calls. You just pay for them at a rate of a few pence per minute, just like we always used to.
Some providers, especially Sky, also offer pay TV as well, include sports and movie channels. In some cases, though you might be able to get these channels cheaper elsewhere.
Price and contract length
And then there's the price and contract length, and the two often go hand in hand: sign up to a longer deal and you can shave a few pounds off your monthly bill. Anything shorter than 12 months is likely to cost you quite a bit more, while longer than that leaves you at risk of being stuck with a service you're not totally happy with.
Our price comparison guide will help you find the best broadband prices, and identify those deals that are within your budget. Make sure you check the 1st Year Cost column to see how much you'll pay in the initial 12 months - this includes those easy to overlook extras like postage or a setup fee.
Ready to start shopping for broadband? Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals available in your area today.
Posted on 2020-05-04 16:37 in Features
While it's important for all of us to keep in touch with family and friends during the coronavirus outbreak, it's especially important to check in with older relatives, friends and neighbours to make sure that they're okay. They're most at risk of becoming isolated, and they may have to live with the lockdown for longer.
Fortunately, video calling has made it a whole lot easier to stay in touch. It may sound like a daunting prospect to older people who aren't confident with technology, but it doesn't need to be.
If they've got a smartphone, tablet or laptop, then there are loads of free apps to try, from services that most of them probably already use. Or if that's too much, you can set them up with a video chat device that requires no tech know-how at all.
Video chat software
The easiest options for video calling are by using services that everyone already has access to. If you and the person you're calling use Apple devices, then this is likely to mean FaceTime. If not, then most people have a Facebook or Google account - or both - and both offer their own video chat services.
You can use Facebook Messenger through a dedicated app on your phone, or with the webcam on a laptop, just by logging in to your account in the Chrome or Microsoft Edge browser as you normally would. You can chat with up to 50 people at once, so it's ideal for virtual family get togethers.
Likewise, Google Duo runs in most browsers as long as you're signed in to your account, and it should also be pre-installed on every Android phone or tablet. Up to 12 people can join in a call, and you just need their Google address or phone number to invite them. If you need more than 12 people, take a look at Google Meet. This is primarily a business tool for video conferencing, but Google are now making it free for everyone. You can add up to 100 people to your call, and chat for an hour.
If the person you're calling has a smartphone or tablet, then WhatsApp is another good choice to look into. You - and the people you're calling - will need to install the app from the app store, but the setup process is minimal. When you first launch WhatsApp you just need to register your phone number by entering a short code you'll be sent by text. After that, you're good to go. Just tap the green Chat icon in the bottom right corner, select a contact or create a new group to start a group chat, then hit the Video Call button to begin.
And then there's Zoom, which has become one of the big names in video chat during the lockdown. Similar to Google Meet, you can add up to 100 people to your call, and chat for 40 minutes at a time. It's pretty easy to get started with. The person who starts and hosts the call will need to create a Zoom account first, and can then invite people to join by sending them a link or code via email or text message. People joining the chat don't even need to create an account, although they will have to install the Zoom app on their laptop or phone first.
Video chat hardware
Even easier than using software on your phone or laptop is using dedicated hardware. These devices tend to be plug and play, so once you're connected and logged in there's no other configuration needed. They're ideal for less tech-savvy users - especially if you set it up yourself before you give it to them.
You've probably seen the TV ads for Facebook Portal, which is a series of tablet-style video calling devices starting with an eight-inch model priced at £129. Portal is easy to set up - you just need to connect it to your Wi-Fi network and log in to your Facebook account - and then it's ready to use. The best thing is that it works with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as well, so not everyone on the chat needs to buy the hardware to join in the fun.
Google have their own equivalent in the form of the Google Nest Hub Max, albeit at a pricier £219. This is part digital photo frame, part hands-free Google Assistant smart speaker, part home security system, and part video calling device. It works with Google Duo for the latter, which, as we've seen, comes on every Android phone and is also available as an iPhone or iPad app.
And there's also Amazon's Echo Show, which is the most affordable option, starting at £79.99 for a 5.5 inch model. This combines the Alexa smart speaker tools with the ability to make video calls to any device with the Alexa app installed - this could be another Echo device, an Amazon Fire HD tablet, or an iPhone or Android phone running the app. What makes this especially user friendly is that when you buy it you can have it automatically set up with your Amazon account details, and even linked to your Wi-Fi network in some cases.
The right broadband for video calls
Video calling doesn't require very much bandwidth, so is usable even on slower broadband plans. The quality of the video drops to a level that is right for your broadband speed.
But if you, or a family member, are becoming more reliant on video calling as well as things like TV streaming or getting used to the demands of working from home, it may be a good time to consider upgrading your broadband to something faster. Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals in your area today.
Posted on 2020-04-27 14:56 in News Features
We're a month into a lockdown introduced to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic which has disrupted the activities of every household and business in the country. That disruption hasn't spared broadband providers, with Openreach, the BT Group company that maintains telephone exchanges, lines and street cabinets, putting a halt to all non-essential home engineer visits until at least June. Other providers, such as Sky, have also announced delays to home television installations and other in-home services.
If you're not getting everything you need from your broadband service and need to switch to something better suited for lockdown homeworking or the demands of an entire stay-at-home family, then you may well be anxious that these disruptions are going to prevent or seriously delay your switch.
Thankfully, as with capacity and performance, the reassuring message from most broadband providers at this point is that it's 'business as usual' for the vast majority of switches.
If you currently have broadband from one home broadband provider and you're simply switching to another on the same telephone line then you'll most likely be able to 'self-install', with the vast majority of cases being as simple as swapping your existing provider's router with the new provider's replacement.
Things may become a little more complicated if you're moving into a new home and need a new telephone line to be activated. The same may be true if you're currently using a broadband technology, such as full fibre from providers like Hyperoptic or cable from Virgin Media, that doesn't use the copper telephone lines. In these cases, if you're switching to a part-fibre technology such as most providers' fibre offering, with speeds averaging 38Mb or 68Mb or less, then you'll need to have a working BT-compatible telephone line in your home.
However, even in these cases, if there's a BT or Openreach telephone master socket already in your home, it's highly likely that it will be possible for this to be reactivated without an engineer visit being needed.
So, barring faults, only those who live in new build homes with only a fibre to the premises (FTTP) connection provided, or flats only provided with a cable broadband and telephone connection, are likely to be in a situation where there technology they currently use will prevent them from switching to other providers until the lockdown restrictions allow a home engineer visit in order to install the a telephone line.
Whether those who are currently on telephone line broadband can switch to providers and technologies that use full fibre or cable to the home will vary on a provider-by-provider basis. BT seem to have halted new installs of their own FTTP product, but similar ultrafast products using a different technology are available but with potential delays.
The best advice at this time is to speak to advisors, such as via live chat on product pages, before you sign up.
If you're switching between a non-Openreach provider such as Virgin Media and an Openreach provider that does use a BT-compatible phone line, or vice versa, then it's recommended that you don't cancel your current service until your new broadband service has been fully installed and confirmed as working. Non-Openreach providers don't need a BT-compatible phone line to work, so can be run in parallel with another service that does use that phone line. At this present time, it's safest to allow some overlap, especially with the strong chance of additional delays due to the lockdown.
However, we would suggest that you should always check with your existing provider that you're not still tied to a minimum contract period and won't be liable to large exit charges should you switch before that period ends.
Even if you fall into the 'business as usual' category, it's best to expect a greater chance of additional delays, simply because of higher than normal demand for customer services and employees having to do technical jobs remotely from home. See our recent post on improving your broadband without disruption to service for tips on how to ensure that you have a working backup connection, should that happen.
Posted on 2020-04-09 15:15 in Features
We're in a golden age for TV. If you aren't already signed up to a streaming service you're missing out on some of the best shows ever made.
Yet with so many to choose from, all with their own range of unique content, it's hard to know where exactly to spend your money. Here's our guide to the best UK streaming services to help you decide.
- Price: from £5.99 a month, 30-day free trial
- Pros: A huge range of content, and by far the most and best original shows and movies; works on every device
- Cons: Non-original movie selection is not as good; you have to pay more for HD or 4K streaming
The biggest name in streaming has by far the biggest range of original content, from TV shows like The Crown, The Witcher and Better Call Saul, to Oscar-nominated movies like The Irishman. There's heaps of classics to binge on as well - this is the place to get your fix of Friends.
It's great for kids, while the ingenious recommendation system constantly suggests new things you'll love based on what you've already watched. If you're new to streaming, this is the one to try.
Netflix is available on pretty much every device, including streaming sticks, smart TVs, and even your Sky Q box.
Amazon Prime Video
- Price: £7.99 a month or £79 per year, 30-day free trial
- Pros: Cheap, and especially good value as part of the full Prime package; a growing number of exclusives; live sport
- Cons: Not many major hits; no user profiles
Amazon Prime Video is available on a monthly basis, but is best value when bought as part of the whole Prime package. That gives you a heap of extras, like free postage on Amazon purchases, access to music streaming, a monthly selection of Kindle ebooks, and much more.
Prime Video is getting an ever expanding range of Originals and exclusive films and shows, including The Grand Tour and the Star Trek spin-off Picard. The company has also started dipping its toes into the world of live sport. The recommendation engine isn't up to the level of Netflix, and it doesn't support separate user profiles, so you'll be sharing your watchlist with the rest of the family.
Amazon Prime Video is perhaps best used on an Amazon Fire Stick, but it's also available on many smart TVs, games consoles, or whatever other device you use.
- Price: £8.99 for Entertainment, £11.99 for Movies, £3.99 for kids, 7-day free trial
- Pros: The only way to watch Sky without a subscription; packed with exclusive TV and Hollywood blockbusters
- Cons: Expensive if you subscribe to all the Passes; not full HD as standard
NOW TV is the only way to watch Sky TV channels without either a dish or a lengthy contract. It offers several Passes, including Entertainment, Movies, Kids and Sports, and you get a short trial period for all of them. The service works on most streaming devices, and is offered on some smart TVs.
The movie selection, from Sky Cinema, is excellent, and perhaps the best way to get the most recent releases without paying for them individually. The Entertainment Pass, meanwhile, is the only way to watch shows like The Walking Dead or Westworld without a Sky sub.
One big downside is that it's a little pricier than its rivals, and considerably so if you want more than one Pass. Also, the picture quality is not full HD - let alone 4K. You have to pay even more for a NOW TV Boost to unlock a higher resolution.
- Price: £5.99 a month, 30-day free trial
- Pros: A dream for lovers of classic British telly; generous free trial
- Cons: A lot of boxsets are not complete; some shows are available on other services for free
BritBox is a collaboration between the BBC and ITV to make a large number of their classic shows available to stream for the first time. It has the largest number of UK TV boxsets on any provider, and they're also expanding into original content soon, with the return of Spitting Image.
BritBox is great for bingeing on TV comfort food like Midsomer Murders, or rediscovering forgotten classics like Our Friends in the North. It's a refreshing alternative to the very US-centric content of the other streaming services.
It isn't as widely available as some, though. You can watch on a Fire Stick or Apple TV, as well as phones, tablets and a web browser. Smart TV support is much more limited for now.
- Price: £5.99 a month or £59 per year, 7-day free trial
- Pros: Home to many of the biggest movie brands of all time; supports seven user profiles and four screens
- Cons: Content range is limited - no shows geared towards adults
It's easy to overlook just how much of the mainstream entertainment landscape is now owned by Disney. Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel - in fact, they were responsible for eight of the ten highest grossing films of 2019.
Disney+ is the company's brand new streaming service, bringing all of this content along with the classic Disney cartoons and some new shows, like The Mandalorian. It's a very family friendly service. There's bags of stuff specifically for kids, and you can create user profiles for them, but not so much just for adults.
You can watch Disney+ on most devices, including Fire Stick, phones and tablets, and some smart TVs (more are likely to be supported as the service becomes established in the UK).
- Price: £4.99 a month, 7-day free trial
- Pros: A lower monthly price than other services; integrates with your existing iTunes purchases
- Cons: Not much content yet; no older shows or films
Another fairly new entrant to the market, Apple TV+ only has original content right now. The most well received of the new programmes is The Morning Show, while the reception for the others has been rather mixed. There's a lot more in production, though, so even if the service isn't a must-buy right now, that may change in the near future.
You can watch Apple TV+ on computers, iOS devices (not Android), games consoles and Apple TV. You also get a free year's subscription when you buy a new Apple device.
Free Streaming Services
If you don't want to pay out lots for TV and film streaming, don't forget that many UK TV channels have their own apps offering catch-up TV, boxsets and live streaming:
- BBC iPlayer: includes the streaming-only BBC Three, plus live TV, catchup and a wide range of boxsets like Line of Duty and Fleabag
- ITV Hub: live TV and catchup shows from the four ITV channels, with ad breaks
- All 4: live TV and catchup, plus 270 boxsets including Peep Show, ER and The Inbetweeners. Includes ad breaks
- My5: 21 channels of catchup TV and boxsets from Channel 5 and the internet service Pluto TV
- UKTV Play: catchup and over 100 boxsets from Dave, Yesterday and Drama
Pay as you go streaming
You can also forego the monthly subscription and just buy or rent what you want as you want it. This is the best way to watch the latest movie releases, which usually become available for rental long before they hit any other streaming service.
The big players here include:
- iTunes: also integrates with an Apple TV+ sub
- Amazon: watch films on your Fire Stick or other Prime-compatible streaming device
- Rakuten TV: available on many smart TVs, including those from LG, Samsung and Sony
- Google Play: watch on a TV via a Chromecast streaming dongle, or on your phone or tablet
Interested in adding premium TV to your broadband bundle? Read our guide on how much money you can save.
Posted on 2020-04-03 15:55 in Features
There's a lot of choice when you're shopping for a new broadband deal, and a whole range of different suppliers.
You've got the big brands, with long established reputations, alongside companies you might never have heard of before. So should you be swayed by a famous name, or are the smaller providers worth a look?
Let's see some of the factors you'll need to consider.
If you're shopping for a basic fibre broadband service then the speeds you're looking at are going to be roughly the same regardless of the size of the provider.
Most providers use the Openreach network, so they bring the broadband signal into your home using the same telephone exchanges, street cabinets and cables. In some cases, it's literally an identical service - John Lewis Broadband, for example, is actually supplied by Plusnet.
When it comes to faster services over 100Mb your options for smaller providers are more limited, but you still have some. Suppliers like Zen and Direct Save can offer packages with speeds up to 300Mb, while fibre-to-the-home (or full fibre as it often called) is dominated by niche players like Hyperoptic and Gigaclear. Don't assume that going with a smaller company will bring compromises.
One of the best ways for smaller providers to compete is on price. When you compare the first year cost of all broadband providers, it's companies like Post Office, Shell Energy and NOW Broadband that come out as the best value. If you want to make a saving, it's worth checking out some of these names.
Smaller providers are also more likely to offer short term, 30-day contracts. You won't get these quite as cheap, and they often come with higher upfront costs. But if you need flexibility then they are ideal.
If something goes wrong with your broadband you need to know that there's someone on hand to fix it. The level of support you can get varies massively across the industry. The big companies all give you a phone number to ring - on weekdays at least, if not always weekends - but it's a more mixed picture for the smaller suppliers. They range from NOW Broadband, whose support is through live online chat only, to John Lewis, whose phone help is available between 8am and 10pm, 24/7.
Of course, availability of support is not the same as quality. Take a look at our user satisfaction reports to see how happy customers are with each provider.
Help can come in other ways, too. A lot of big providers offer guarantees on speed and Wi-Fi coverage. BT, for instance, will send you a 4G router to keep you connected if your fibre broadband goes down, and also provide Wi-Fi Discs to ensure you get the fastest possible signal throughout your home (both at a small monthly extra cost).
Even without this you do have rights if your internet doesn't perform as well as you expected. You might be eligible for a refund, or even to leave your contract early without penalty.
One of the main plusses to choosing a big name provider is that you get more options. You can potentially save money on pay TV by bundling it with your broadband from Sky or Virgin Media, while most offer bundles including mobile deals as well. They also frequently give cash or free gifts to entice you to sign up.
These kinds of extras are much rarer from smaller suppliers, although they do exist. As an example, Shell Energy offer potential discounts for existing energy customers, as well as cheaper petrol through the Shell Go+ membership scheme.
Reputation and Reliability
This is the biggie. When you're considering providers like Virgin Media or Sky you can check our user reviews page and find thousands of ratings and comments from existing customers. Their satisfaction levels go right across the spectrum. You'll probably also have friends and family who use these providers and can give you an insight into what to expect.
With a smaller provider you'll find fewer reviews, and might be less likely to get a personal recommendation from someone. It can feel like a leap into the unknown. But don't be fooled into thinking that a less well established reputation is the same as a bad one. Zen Broadband currently top our user satisfaction ratings, while Direct Save rank above both BT and Sky!
Smaller providers may seem like a bit of an unknown quantity, and the lack of bundles is not going to work for everyone. Yet if you value speed and price then they are worth considering. The main thing is to do your research before you sign up so that you know exactly what you're getting.
Ready to start shopping for a broadband deal? Use our postcode checker to find what's available in your area now.