Broadband: How to find the deal for you

If you want to surf the web, watch TV, make calls (and save money) you need to find the right multimedia package. Jimmy Lee Shreeve rounds up the best bundles now on offer – and explains which could fit your bill
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The Independent Tech

The country's telecoms providers are in fierce competition with each other to offer "triple-play" deals for broadband, landline and television. This is great news for consumers, as there are substantial savings to be had by letting one provider take care of all your entertainment and communications needs. Tiscali, for example, is offering a broadband, landline and television deal for less than £20 a month. Meanwhile, Virgin Media is throwing in a free mobile phone or SIM card as part of one of its deals.

Going with a single provider rather than two or three also has the advantage of the billing being in one place, which can make it easier to budget and keep track of costs when it comes to paying. The same goes for technical support and maintenance. If you need to call someone out, they will be able to cover the whole set-up, rather than having to deal with the frustration of three separate helplines.

Is there a catch in buying a bundled package of services? Not really. Each service has its own merits. And which deal you choose depends on your needs, as well as your budget. If you want mega-fast broadband, then Virgin Media is the supplier to go for as its broadband runs on the new, speedy, fibre optic cable infrastructure, not on the ageing phone lines originally laid by BT. So when Virgin Media says its broadband speeds are 10MB, they really are 10MB of blisteringly fast download speeds. Getting that kind of performance with another provider will depend on the state of your phone line, which may well not be up to scratch.

But if you use the phone a lot – or have a brood of teenagers who do – or have specific requirements regarding what you want to watch on TV, or if you've got a very definite budget to stick to every month, you may well find one of the other providers better suits your needs. Tiscali, BT and Sky also offer a range of bundles that should suit every budget.

Prices correct at time of going to press


Package: "Triple for £14"

Broadband: Speeds of up to 10MB on Virgin's high speed fibre optic cable infrastructure. Allows you to download a music track in less than ten seconds. Unlimited downloads. Free extras include wireless "G" router and 5GB of online storage and backup. Plus photo printing service (delivered to your door), anti-virus, firewall and pop-up blocker.

TV: Forty-five channel digital TV (Freeview). TV on demand – 500 films and thousands of TV shows and music videos. Catch Up TV, plus you can watch BBC iPlayer on Virgin TV.

Phone: Free weekend calls if you scrap your BT line and pay £11 a month for a Virgin line.

Total cost: £14 and £11 phone line per month. And you can add a V+HD box (pause, rewind or record TV shows) for a few pounds more (so long as you rent your phone line from Virgin).

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Package: "Triple for £19"

Broadband: Same as "Triple for £14".

TV: Same as "Triple for £14", plus over 100 channels, including Virgin 1, Living TV, MTV, Bravo, Sky 1 2 3, Sky News.

Phone: Same as "Triple for £14"

Total cost: £19 for first three months, £24 after that. Plus £11 phone line rental per month. Again you can include a V+HD box in this bundle if you rent your phone line from Virgin. The contract is for 18 months.

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Package: Virgin Media 4 Broadband, TV, Phone and Mobile

Broadband: Same as above "Triple" deals.

TV: Over 100 digital TV channels including Sky 1 2 3, Sky News, Sky Sports News, Virgin 1, Living TV, Discovery and Euro Sport. Huge library of movies, TV and music videos on demand. Plus Catch Up TV and Virgin Central with selected series like Spooks and Shameless. Extras include a free V set-top box.

Phone: Same as above "Triple" deals.

Mobile phone: (1) £12 SIM card (keep your current phone) with 300 minutes and 500 texts. Or (2) £12 SIM card with 100 minutes and 100 texts, plus free phone.

Total cost: £31 for first three months, £36 after that. Plus £11 phone line per month. The contract is for 12 months.

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Package: "Triple for £40"

Broadband: Speeds of up to 20MB.

TV: Over 165 channels, including Virgin 1, Nickelodeon, UKTV Food, Sky 1 2 3, Sky News, Sky Sports News and eight Sentanta sports channels. TV On Demand has 500 movies and thousands of TV shows and music videos.

Phone: Unlimited UK landline calls.

Total cost: £40 for the first six months, £47 after that. Plus £11 phone line per month. You can rent V+HD box if you get your phone line from Virgin.

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Package: Tiscali has two very simple offers. The first is "TV, Broadband and Weekend Calls"

Broadband: 8MB download speeds and unlimited usage. Plus free router.

TV: Over 70 digital channels, including Sky 1. Free seven-day Catch Up TV and more than 1,500 movies on demand. Free set-top box or upgrade to Tiscali+Digital Recorder. Bear in mind the TV option is not available in all areas.

Phone: Free UK weekend calls and international calls (Tiscali's top ten countries only). Includes line rental.

Total cost: £19.99 a month and £99 installation fee for broadband and set-top box.


Package: "TV, Broadband and Anytime Calls"

As above, but all calls included, although all calls are limited to an hour. After that a minute-by-minute rate kicks in.

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Package: "Starter"

Broadband: Speeds of up to 8MB and 10GB monthly usage. Extras include 250 WiFi broadband minutes a month, basic security and a BT Home Hub router.

TV: Has Freeview as standard. Includes Bronze viewing pack (choose two from Picture Box Films, Kids, Sports and Music). Extras include V-box (HD ready) digital TV recorder.

Phone: Unlimited evening and weekend calls to UK landlines. Daytime weekday calls 4.5p per minute (8p call set-up fee). Plus BT Answer 1571.

Total cost: £6.85 for first three months, £29.35 after that. The contract is for 18 months.

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Package: "More Access"

Broadband: Same as "Starter".

TV: Same as "Starter", but you get the Gold viewing pack, which gets you all of the above viewing packs, not just two.

Phone: Same as "Starter".

Total cost: £12.72 a month, then £35.22. Contact is for 18 months.

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Package: "Full House"

Broadband: As "Starter" and "More Access", but with unlimited usage, plus Home Hub and Hub Phone, and advanced security.

TV: As "More Access".

Phone: As "Starter" and "More Access".

Total cost: £12.72 a month for the first three months, £44.03 after that. Contract is for 18 months.

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Package: When you sign up for Sky TV, you pick the "Entertainment Packs" you want (a minimum of one) and select your Sky Box. Then you personalise with extras like Sports and Movies, Sky+HD, an extra box, or Sky Broadband and Sky Talk.

Broadband: Sky broadband "Base" has download speeds of MB and a monthly usage allowance of GB per month. Free to Sky TV customers. Sky broadband "Mix" has download speeds of 8MB and a 40GB monthly usage allowance. £5 a month. Sky broadband "Max" has download speeds of 16MB and unlimited usage. £10 a month. But if take up Sky "Talk" (landline) with any of the above, you pay £5 less each month.

TV: You're obliged to buy a minimum of one Sky TV package (from £16.50 per month). Additional Entertainment Packs are £1 extra each month. Sky Sports is an extra £11 per month, and Sky Movies is an extra £9 per month. The Standard Sky Box gives you access to all the channels in your Sky TV package. The box is free, but there's a £15 set-up fee for new Sky customers.

Package: Alternatively, go for a Sky+Box. You get all of the above, but you can also record and store shows to watch later. £99 for the box and £30 set-up fee for new Sky customers. Then there's the Sky+HD Box. It has all the functions of the Sky+Box, but with access to 33 HD channels. £49 for the box and £9.75 a month for Sky HD Pack. Free set-up.

Phone: Sky "Talk Freetime" has free evening and weekend calls (for first hour, then 4p a minute after that). Line rental is £10 a month (if you want to scrap your BT line). Additional features like call minder and call barring are priced individually. Alternatively, go for Sky "Talk Unlimited" and get unlimited UK calls and some international for free. £5 a month, plus £10 line rental.

Offers: Sky is keen to win new customers, so all of the above is up to 50 per cent cheaper for new customers than for existing ones. For example, the Sky+Box costs new customers £30, while existing customers have to shell out £60.

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