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
Buyers beware of new-build home headaches
Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
Money roundup video: Warning for mortgage borrowers and Premium Bonds boost
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 3 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
iJobs Money & Business
£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...
£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool