How to cut your bills by getting it all together
With companies now packaging their broadband deals with TV and phone services, it pays to shop around. But finding the best deal can be tricky. James Daley navigates the market
Saturday 31 January 2009
If you haven’t changed your home phone or internet provider over the past few years, the chances are you can save yourself some money. Prices for broadband services have come down rapidly in recent months and, as competition in the market has intensified, the rewards to be found by bundling your home phone, broadband, television – and even mobile phone – into the same package, have increased, too.
The main catch, however, is that this is not a simple market to navigate. While O2, for example, might offer one of the best value broadband packages, you’ll need to be a customer of their mobile phone services to get the best rates. You’ll also need a BT phone line – but O2 doesn’t offer home phone services, so you’ll need to sort that part of your package out with another provider. In which case, you might be interested in
Virgin Media, which offers a phone line, broadband and a basic TV package for as little as £27 a month – but unfortunately, its cable packages are not available in all parts of the UK. And then there’s Sky – another provider which offers all three services – but you’ll need to be in a building where you can attach a satellite to an exterior wall or chimney.
The key to saving money is to start with your TV requirements – which are the least flexible – and then explore phone and broadband packages. Confused? Keep reading.
Digital television has brought us dozens more free channels. All you need is a TV with a digital receiver – or a Freeview set-top box with an older television and you’ll have access to more than 40 channels. If you’re still only getting the main five channels, it’s worth investing in a set-top box as soon as possible, as analogue reception will be turned off over the next three years. To find out when the switchover is planned in your area, visit www.dig italuk.co.uk.
If Freeview’s 40-odd channels are enough – and you’re not interested in buying an additional TV package – you’ll have more choice when choosing your home phone and broadband provider. However, once you find out what providers such as Sky, Virgin Media, BT and Tiscali can offer you on your TV, you may have a change of heart.
While you might not feel you need any more channels – the advantage of signing up to a TV package is access to on-demand content. For example, Virgin Media offers a library of 500 on-demand films; you pay a few pounds each time you watch one – doing away with the need to visit the video shop. For another £7 a month, you can also have unlimited access to hundreds of on-demand television series – such as The Wire, The Sopranos and Life on Mars.
Virgin Media offers the best on-demand package – but you’ll need to switch your phone line to Virgin, too. And you’ll need to live in an area that’s cabled. To find out if you live in a cable area. Visit allyours. virginmedia.com and type your postcode.
Tiscali and BT also offer relatively good on-demand packages, but you’ll need to get your broadband and home phone with them. And if you’re after a fast internet
connection, you might be disappointed, as their maximum speed is only 8Mb – and tends to be much slower in some areas. In contrast, Virgin offers 10Mb, 20Mb and 50Mb packages. Sky also offers some on-demand services for customers who take its Sky+ or Sky+HD boxes – but these pieces of equipment will cost at least £99. There’s not as much choice as with Virgin, but you will get some content from across Sky’s channels – including films – included.
All the main subscription TV services offer personal video recorder (PVR) machines, which allow you to pause and rewind live TV, as well as record programmes. With Sky, you’ll pay £99 to buy the box, while Virgin will
charge you £5 a month to rent its V+ box, plus £99 for installation. Tiscali charges £50 for its box, while BT is offering its V-box for free.
If you have a good broadband connection, you can get free content online – such as programmes from the BBC iplayer, or 4OD. So if this and your Freeview is enough, you can probably do without an additional package. But if you want access to US series, the latest movies on-demand or sports channels (see box), you’ll need to look at buying a TV subscription as well.
If you’ve decided to sign up with either Sky, Virgin, BT or Tiscali for their television services, it’ll probably be cheapest to get your broadband and home phone from them as well. Ultimately, the more services you take from the same provider, the better value you get. For example, Sky will charge you £16.50 a month to sign up
to its basic TV package. But it won’t charge you any more than £10 a month line rental if you also take its basic home phone and broadband package. Furthermore, at the moment, it’s offering free line rental, and a free upgrade to its 16Mb broadband package for three months.
With Virgin, you can get phone, TV and 10Mb broadband for £27 a month, while Tiscali can do the lot for just £20 (although the broadband is slower). BT works out most expensive, with its cheapest package coming in at just under £40 a month – although it’s just £24.90 a month for the first three months.
If you’re happy to stick with Freeview, then you can pick up some other great bargains on your broadband and home phone – especially if you happen to be a mobile phone customer with Orange or O2. However, you’ll need to have a BT phone line to sign up to these deals.
O2 offers up to 20Mb broadband for under £10 if you’re one of its mobile customers, or 8Mb broadband for just £7.34. BT line rental will cost you another £10.27 a month, but if you’re after a fast connection, this is one of the best deals. Orange offers a home phone and 8Mb broadband deal for just £15 – including line rental. Talk Talk offers up to 8Mb broadband and home phone – including line rental for £17 a month.
Before you get too carried away with chasing the fastest broadband speed, it’s worth checking out what the maximum speed is in your area. Although providers might boast that they can offer you 10 or 20Mb broadband, the speed you will actually receive depends on a number of factors, such as how far you live from the exchange, and how recently the infrastructure was upgraded in your area.
Most providers have a tool on their website, which will tell you what speeds are available in your area, or their customer support centre should also be able to let you know.
The fastest speeds available are from Virgin – which now offers up to 50Mb in some areas. Because it’s broadband comes down its own cable, it has greater control over the speeds it can offer to its customers.
Finally, Charles Ponsonby of Simplifydigital.co.uk, the communications comparison site, advises that broadband shoppers give the likes of Tesco, Post Office and Waitrose – and other such non-specialist providers – a wide berth. In a recent survey, Simplifydigital discovered that many of these packages represent particularly bad value for money.
It highlighted Tesco – which offered speeds of just 0.5mb for £13.67 a month, more than £5 a month more than O2’s reliable 8Mb package.
“People expect Tesco to deliver great value for money, but in the case of broadband it certainly does not, being nearly twice as expensive as popular services such as TalkTalk broadband,” said Ponsonby.
“Customers really should research the market very carefully before buying a broadband package, because big brands that you know and trust may not offer the best deal – and if you do make a bad decision you could be locked into a long term contract and waste hundreds of pounds per year.”
Almost all phone packages now include free evening and weekend national calls, but if you make a lot of calls to mobiles – or a lot of international calls – it may be worth doing some shopping around for the best deals. Talk Talk is offering free international calls to 36 destinations on its standard tariffs. However, you’ll have to pay up to 12p a minute if you want to call mobiles in the UK. Sky’s Talk Unlimited works out as one of the cheapest packages if you regularly call UK mobiles.
Another option to keep the cost of international calls down is to use the internet for your phone calls – services known as Voice over Internet Protocol (Voip). Skype offers free calls all around the world to other Skype users, while providers such as Vonage provide a cheap option if you’re looking for a second phone line at home.
Finally, if you’re thinking of changing mobile phone provider soon, remember that you’ll get great discounts on your broadband if you hook up with Orange or O2.
All action sports packages
If you want to watch live sports such as Premier League football matches, you’ll need to be prepared to pay a bit more for your TV package. Sky’s sports channels carry most of the matches as well as England’s Test cricket matches – but you don’t necessarily need to buy these directly from Sky.
Sky’s cheapest package including its sports channels is around £35.50 – and if you add in a phone line and basic broadband, itworks out at £45.50. Virgin offers a similar deal for just under £50 – but this package comes with a much bigger selection of nonsports channels. Tiscali also offers all three services – including the sports packages for £47.50.
If you only want to watch the occasional sports match, you could opt for a package that just includes Setanta’s sports channels. Setanta has the rights to 48 Premier League matches over the course of the season, and you can pick up a package that includes these for under £30 (including a phone line).
Meanwhile, BT includes Setanta’s channels in its most basic TV packages, which start at around £40, including phone and broadband.
Virgin offers a similar deal for just under £50 – but this package comes with a bigger selection of non-sports channels.
To find the best phone, broadband, TV bundles, visit www.simplifydigital.com
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou aims to make buying a home easier
The HiFX guide to international money transfers
Low income and high housing costs leave millions facing losing their home
Parents risk their own financial future to help kids climb on the property ladder
Energy bills could soar for those on a fixed tariff
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 3 Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
- 4 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
- 5 Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
iJobs Money & Business
£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...
£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...
£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony