Broadband Bundles Now A Major Influence On Our Choice Of Provider
The increased promotion of bundled TV, broadband and phone packages (like BT's Broadband, Calls & TV bundle) is certainly influencing our purchase behaviour with a recent research report from Ofcom stating that bundling is now the second most important factor influencing our choice of provider.
However, a raft of questions remain unanswered - questions like 'Are these bundles really as cheap as they say they are?', 'what are the pros and cons of taking all these services from just one supplier?' and 'do they really represent good value for money?'
In this article we explore the current broadband, phone, TV and mobile bundles, providing answers to these questions and more.
What Is A Broadband Bundle?
Put simply, a broadband bundle is an offer of two or more services for one attractive monthly price that is cheaper than buying them separately. There are many different bundle combinations to choose from. These range from the popular broadband and phone packages provided by the likes of Plusnet Broadband, to triple play broadband, phone & TV bundles from TalkTalk, Sky and BT. Mobile SIM cards are also being added, leading to quad-play offerings from the likes of Virgin Media & TalkTalk.
Why Is There So Much Competition Between Broadband Bundle Suppliers?
The convergence of internet, TV and telecoms technologies has certainly heated up the battle between the bundle providers. Companies like BT (with BT YouView TV) now offer digital TV services over broadband in an effort to counteract the threat posed by Sky's continued customer growth in the broadband market.
But, it's not just technologies and competition driving the bundle craze - the theory held by the ISP's is that once a customer signs up to a bundle, there's far less chance of them switching to another provider as it would be too much hassle and potentially cost a lot of money. For example, if you sign up to a Virgin Media bundle and later want to switch back to BT, there's potentially a cost of circa £128 to have your BT line re-connected, not to mention any contract cancellation fees that you may incur.
So, not only do ISP's benefit from the increased monthly income they receive from you for taking a bundle, they'll also likely to benefit from keeping you as a customer for much longer.
Are Broadband Bundles Really As Cheap As They Say They Are?
Broadband bundles aren't necessarily as cheap as their headline marketing message. For example, take the Sky Original Bundle at £16.13 per month. This bundle includes up to 17Mb broadband plus inclusive evening & weekend UK landline phone calls together with over 40 Sky TV channels and catch-up TV.
However, in the small print, you'll find you have to pay Sky at least a £30 set up fee, plus £6.95 wireless router delivery charge. The Sky Talk package excludes any daytime calls you make during the week. Calls to mobiles & international numbers, plus non geographic & premium rate numbers (those starting 08, 09 and 118) are also excluded so you'll be paying on top of the £16.13 per month for these as well.
The Sky bundles do have their good points though. You can build a broadband, phone and TV package to suit your requirements from just £16.13 a month. You can also add Sky premium programmes like Sky Sports to your bundle and pay from just £34.50 a month for the whole lot (excluding phone line rental of £16.40 a month). You'll also receive a free wireless router so you can enjoy wireless broadband around your house.
Available to 55% of the UK households on their fibre optic cable network, the Virgin Media Big Easy Bundle at £16 a month, paints a similar picture. Subscribers are required to take Virgin Media telephone line rental at £16.99 per month, so you'll really be paying at least £32.99 a month. There's also a one-off installation fee of £49.95.
Like Sky, the Virgin Media bundles do have their positives. The Big Easy Bundle includes super-fast broadband speeds up to 50Mb, weekend UK landline calls (though like Sky, this excludes daytime & evening calls during the week), the new TiVo 500GB PVR set top box, plus access to over 200 digital TV channels. There's also thousands of hours of TV on demand, access to the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4OD on your own telly and 6 months FREE Netflix.
It certainly pays to read the small print of the various bundle deals on offer as its likely you'll end up paying more per month than the cheap headline price advertised. With additional phone call charges being the main culprit for this, you may want to consider using a free internet phone or chat services like Skype or Facetime, or use your free call minutes on your mobile to keep your bundle costs low.
Don't forget you can compare all the various broadband bundles offered by Sky, Virgin Media, BT and all the other major providers by entering your postcode on our broadband comparison page. Please note, the costs we show include any installation or activation costs, but exclude your typical monthly telephone line rental cost of circa £16-17 unless where stated.
The Pros & Cons Of Bundling TV, Broadband And Phone Packages With One Provider
There's many pros and cons of bundling your broadband, phone, TV and even mobile SIM with one supplier. We've listed a few of them below for you to consider:
Broadband Bundle pros:
- One bill for all your homes telecommunication and TV needs
- One direct debit
- One point of contact for customer and technical support
- Good value, provided you choose the right bundle to suit your needs and you use the phone call package wisely
Broadband Bundle cons:
- Your minimum term contract period with them may be longer than a year
- Should one of your bundle services like broadband have a fault, you may find it affects the TV and phone services aswell
- Potentially bad value for money if you choose a bundle that you don't use enough (e.g. you never watch the 200 TV channels), or you don't use the phone calls package wisely
- Over dependence on one supplier which is not great if it has poor customer service
Do Broadband Bundles Really Represent Good Value For Money?
In a nutshell, yes - provided you sign up to the right bundle to suit your needs, you use all the services it includes like the numerous TV channels, and most importantly, you use the calls package wisely. The headline savings you can make by buying a bundle compared to the cost of buying broadband, TV and phone separately are clear, it's just how you use the bundle that dictates whether you get real value for money.
You need to ask yourself whether you really need over 200 digital TV channels or whether you would be wiser to opt for the FREE YouView box and 70 Freeview channels that comes with the £4.75 per month BT Broadband, Calls & TV bundle. You also need to remind yourself not to make unnecessary phone calls during the day if your phone package only covers evening or weekend UK landline phone calls. If you have a mobile on a contract basis, make use of your monthly call minutes to make phone calls, or if your considering a bundle that includes a mobile tariff, make sure you check how many free minutes and texts you get.
A Future Filled With Broadband Bundles?
As technology changes, we're likely to see more broadband bundles coming on to the market that include the likes of mobile broadband SIM cards for tablets like the Apple iPad. Most of these will be good value for money if we use them wisely - the problem is in many cases we won't and that's what the providers rely on to make their profits.
What Do I Do Next?
Now you've read our guide on broadband, phone, TV and mobile bundles, the next step is to compare the best broadband deals by postcode. You'll be able to compare speeds, download limits, contract lengths, costs per month and first year costs for all the bundles available where you live.