Tiscali have turned up the heat on Virgin Media by sealing a deal with Sky which will see the very same channels, broadcast rights of which are at the core of the current Virgin/Sky courtroom debate, to be made available to Tiscali broadband subscribers who can receive their IPTV service, Tiscali TV.
Tiscali recently snuck into third place in the UK Broadband league table, behind Virgin and BT, and is likely to announce details of taking over Pipex soon – if the deal Sky has the desired affect, Tiscali could overtake Virgin by the end of the year and begin to compete directly with broadband and phone market leader BT in the same three markets – broadband, phone and IPTV.
BT is believed to be adding around 2,000 BT Vision customers a week, although exact figures are hard to come by, due to Ofcom not counting BT Vision as a full IPTV service, as the majority of its content is delivered via the Freeview platform. It is estimated that around 1.7 million customers have signed up for Tiscali TV.
Virgin have experienced significant customer migration over the whole Sky debacle – losing 47,000 customers in the last three months – but broadband was one area where Sky couldn’t touch Virgin, until now. Despite Sky unbundling in exchanges faster than anyone else, they currently cannot service as many punters with broadband as Virgin can, so Sky have done the smart thing by empowering the ISP which most directly threatens Virgin’s position.
Sky will do everything they can to make life difficult for Virgin as the Government has commissioned an enquiry into Sky’s acquisition of a stake in ITV, and more recently, Ofcom have, at least momentarily, scuppered Sky’s plans to launch pay-per-view channels on Freeview – both of these inquiries were instigated at the behest of Virgin.
Posted by Tom on June 29th 2007 in Broadband, BT Broadband, Pipex, Sky Broadband, Tiscali, Virgin Media
AOL have reduced the additional price for their non-LLU Silver customers by £5, meaning that the total price for non-LLU customers is now a more manageable £19.99 a month. Previously, customers subscribing to the unlimited 2Mbps Silver service had to cough up an additional £10 a month on top of the basic £14.99 fee if they lived in an area where AOL had not unbundled their gear in the local exchange.
Now that the price has dropped by a fiver, the total monthly damage to non-LLU folk has now lessened. We would like to see the same ethos applied to the Platinum package and hope that other providers follow AOL’s example and reduce the charges made out to customers outside their immediate network; Tiscali, Sky, Virgin Media, take note.
Even better, take a leaf out of Orange and Pipex‘s books which have earned praise for NOT introducing a two-tier pricing system.
Posted by Tom on June 29th 2007 in AOL, Broadband, Orange Broadband, Pipex, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media
Back in May, Vodafone secured the purchase of Spanish ISP Ya.com, which means that the UK-based mobile network operator could very well push quad play services on the continent by the end of the year.
Whilst this doesn’t directly affect the average UK Broadband consumer, it could conceivably change the current shape of the converged communications market. The parent companies of Orange and O2, both market leaders in the mobile/Broadband stakes over here compete with Vodafone in Europe; the acquisition of Ya.com also puts Vodafone at loggerheads with Tiscali, who have a strong presence in Italy.
In an article that was posted on influential IT website The Register by one Faultline, it was suggested that this move could put Vodafone in strong position for the future:
“If Vodafone decides it cannot bring a full quadruple play to market on lines which are merely leased from British Telecom […] it has the obvious next step of trying to acquire the remaining business of Tiscali, based mostly in Italy and the UK. Tiscali has recently sold off its German and Netherlands operations to focus on the UK and Italy…”
Faultline also states that: “if anyone came in to bid for it, its value would likely rise well above $2bn, making it expensive even for Vodafone,” so whilst it does not explicitly state that a Tiscali takeover is on the cards in the near future, the article reflects how market movements elsewhere can affect things at home.
A Vodafone takeover of, or merger with Tiscali would see another quad play provider entering the UK market, threatening the current top 2 – Vodafone has strong brand power and is the largest mobile operator in the world, something which Virgin Media should be very afraid of.
We put together a quick ‘who owns who’ of our listed providers, to see how purchases and acquisitions overseas could potentially shake things up in the rapidly narrowing broadband market.
BT – owns the majority of the phone lines in the UK, and sells local loops to other services providers as per the terms of the Openreach plan. Also funds, but does not operate PlusNet.
Carphone Warehouse – the largest independent mobile retailer in Europe, which owns and runs a mobile repair service, the newly launched Geek Squad mobile tech support service, and TalkTalk as well as the AOL internet services for the UK, which Sky were also interested in snapping up.
Telefónica O2 – part of the BT Group back in the BT Cellnet days, O2 was bought by Spanish telco Telefónica, which competes with France Télécom/Orange and Vodafone on the continent. More recently, O2 purchased Be Broadband in the UK.
Tiscali – Italian-based ISP which took over the Homechoice IPTV service in 2006, making it a triple play provider of digital TV, Broadband and home phone services. It is highly likely that Tiscali will acquire Pipex by the end of the year.
France Télécom / Orange – the main telco in France owns and runs the Orange mobile phone and broadband services, originally known as Wanadoo. Bundled Mobile/Broadband/Home Phone services were launched following the Wanadoo rebrand.
Kingston Communications – a telco formed from the Hull Corporation which set up its own telephone infrastructure independent of BT around Kingston upon Hull – the phone network is the only municipally owned network in the UK. Kingston Communications owns and runs Eclipse Internet.
British Sky Broadcasting – runs the most popular pay-TV platform in the UK, and launched a converged TV/Phone/Broadband package after the purchase of ISP Easynet in 2005. Sky also owns, but does not operate UK Online, which was part of Easynet during the acquisition.
Virgin Media – compromised of the combined services of the merged NTL: Telewest (cable TV and landline phone service) Virgin.net (broadband), and Virgin Mobile (mobile phones).
Pipex – absorbed the ISPs Host Europe and Nildram in 2004 and both Toucan and Bulldog Broadband in 2006, cancelling out millions of pounds worth of debt in the process in 2006 before launching the infamous David “King of the Internet” Hassellhoff ad campaign. Began looking for a buyer early this year; Tiscali are hotly tipped to take over.
NamesCo – web hosting company which took over Simply.com in 2004; NamesCo supplies domain names, hosting as well as broadband services, and own gold mining facilities in Vietnam, which makes them sound like a front for a James Bond supervillain corporation.
Posted by Tom on June 26th 2007 in AOL, Be Broadband, Broadband, BT Broadband, Eclipse Internet, NamesCo, O2 Broadband, Orange Broadband, Pipex, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, Tiscali, Virgin Media
PlusNet have launched a Polish-language mirror of their site and have launched a forum designed to cater to the UK’s Polish community which is made up of roughly three quarters of a million people.
Neil Armstrong, products director at PlusNet said: “With the Polish community in the UK now numbering more than 750,000 people – two per cent of the global Polish population – we’re addressing their needs in a way that makes sense for them,” adding that “all of our customers receive the same service and prices, so we’re simply tailoring our message for a different community. Subject to demand, we’d like to see further languages coming online in the future.”
PlusNet have recognised a particular market and has made moves to cater for it – reports have suggested that migrants are keen on making VoIP calls and making use of P2P programs such as Skype which allow them to stay in contact with relatives back home for relatively nothing.
Seeing as VoIP calls typically eats up plenty of bandwidth, PlusNet would do well to draw to attention to their free overnight usage policy which is a standard feature of all their packages.
Posted by Tom on June 26th 2007 in Broadband, PlusNet
It seems that whilst most customers routinely check the small print for credit cards, bank loans, insurance plans and the like, they fail to scan their broadband contracts with the same scrutiny.
The majority of contractual pitfalls involve cancellation fees – a charge levied for customers who terminate their contracts prematurely, or before a specified time. Be Broadband, who we’ve championed on these pages for offering customers more manageable and flexible 3 month contracts, will slap a £50 charge on customers who have the temerity to sign up for less than 12 months.
PlusNet, who are touting bite-sized 1 month contracts, operate a policy where you get a free wireless router for which there are no installation charges – provided that you sign up for at least 12 months. If you don’t, then you are liable to pay for the £65 router and the £47 install fee, which in practical terms amounts to a total cancellation fee of £112.
Customers who fail to make payments will be hit with fines of up to £25 – NamesCo charge this amount plus VAT for each missed monthly payment. BT and Virgin Media charge customers £7.50 and £10 respectively for failed payments.
Other common ‘hidden’ charges apply to home phone call packages which provide free calls to UK landlines – provided that they begin with either the 01 or 02 prefix – calls to 08 numbers and mobiles are not covered by the majority of inclusive call deals. Similarly, calls to technical support and helpdesks are often charged at premium rates, with Virgin charging 25p and minute, and Orange, a massive 50p a min for tech support.
It’s no secret that UK ISPs are operating in a fiercely competitive market, and as such are heavily dependent upon continual revenue from customers, and to be fair, providers cannot be blamed for customer oversight, even if fine details are buried under reams for small print.
Broadband Finder was set up to ensure that all internet packages are as transparent as possible – details of such things as connection and set-up fees, the cost of line rental and the basic terms and conditions of phone plans are clearly listed in the package summaries, which you can access by clicking on the relevant links on the Broadband Comparison page.
Posted by Tom on June 21st 2007 in Be Broadband, Broadband, BT Broadband, NamesCo, Orange Broadband, PlusNet, Virgin Media
Crap weather, bad teeth and rubbish cooking – we can now proudly add slow broadband to the list of pejorative British stereotypes. Users in Sweden, France and the Netherlands regularly enjoy fast broadband internet access with download speeds of up to 100Mbps – significantly higher than the so-called ‘fast’ 8Mbps speeds available in the UK – net users in South Korea, where one of the world’s first fibre-optic cable networks was installed, have enjoyed fast internet services since the late Eighties.
BT are currently upgrading the existing phone network so that faster ADSL2+ services – currently available from Be Broadband – will become available to more UK homes, although critics have frequently stated that the so called 21st Century Network (21CN) will be obsolete as soon as its completed.
A Government e-petition, initiated by Iain McDonald entitled “Give BT government insentive [sic] to provide fibre to every UK home” reads thus:
“BT are about to upgrade the UK phone network in a project they are calling 21CN. Their internet serivce [sic] will be based around the ADSL2+ standard which provides up to 24mbps download speeds. Parts of the UK already have this and it is currently out of date technology. The rest of the world are replacing their copper phone lines with fibre to the home [FTTH] and have speeds of up to 100Mbps internet and some parts even have speeds of 1Gbps. The UK will lag behind in broadband speed if no fibre network isn’t put in place [sic]…”
The implications of not having a fully-rolled out FTTH network by the end of the next century are grave – copper lines are comparatively costly to maintain, and slower broadband speeds could drastically hurt the financial sector and become a real problem for the economy. We encourage readers to visit the e-petitions page and support the petition for a UK FTTH network.
Posted by Tom on June 20th 2007 in Be Broadband, Broadband, BT Broadband
TalkTalk have earned scorn from customers who have signed up to their Talk3 phone packages, only to find out that they have also been surreptitiously switched to a TalkTalk broadband connection without their prior consent or knowledge.
This behaviour, called ‘slamming’ in the industry has attracted criticism from rival ISPs, in particular, PlusNet who appear to have been hit rather severely by TalkTalk migrating broadband connections to their servers sans customer permission.
The T’s & C’s on TalkTalk’s site state that phone customers will be contacted about being moved across to their internet services if a broadband contract with another ISP is already in affect.
PlusNet also allege that TalkTalk have been selling their services to customer whilst telling them that they do not need a MAC code – a formal complaint has been submitted to Ofcom.
Posted by Tom on June 19th 2007 in Broadband, PlusNet, TalkTalk
Virgin Media has recently unveiled plans to launch Virgin 1, a new entertainment channel set to be launched on its own cable TV platform as well as Freeview; the channel will directly compete with the missing Sky One, and it set for take off this autumn, and is rumoured to feature the much-talked about Terminator spin-off series The Sarah Connor Chronicles and will probably include content from the channels Living and Bravo, both of which are owned by Virgin.
Virgin have said that the money that isn’t now going into Sky‘s coffers was going to be reinvested into new products and services for consumers – so far they’ve been true to their word by releasing Freeview boxes to non-cable customers, accelerating cable broadband speeds and expanding their ADSL network.
Posted by Tom on June 18th 2007 in Broadband, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media
The purchase of Pipex‘s residential broadband service by Tiscali is looking even more certain, after individuals at Pipex have indicated that a takeover is on the cards, and that an announcement will probably be made by the end of next month.
The deal is thought only to include the selling of Pipex’s broadband and home phone services – the firm is expected to retain its WiMax network – which would add over half a million broadband customers to Tiscali, which already has around 1.5 million customers of its own.
Tiscali are currently the third biggest broadband provider in the UK, behind Virgin Media (3.4 million) and BT (3.6 million), and will be competing directly with both of these broadband heavyweights in the converged market once its digital TV service becomes more widely available.
Tiscali recently put the wind up Virgin when rumours of a TV deal with Sky was leaked around the same time as the Trade Secretary referred the satellite giant for further scrutiny. It has been suggested that this talk was designed to make Virgin’s courtroom argument look shaky. War makes for strange bedfellows, and Tiscali, who unlike BT, Virgin or Sky, have no infrastructure of their own (phone lines, cable, satellite) and are unable to bundle as many additional services to as many customers.
Tiscali’s reputation has also taken a hit over a technical gaffe which saw customers unable to send messages from Tiscali’s email service, which ultimately cheapens the offer of free email addresses – when Tiscali need to be bringing in new customers now more than ever before, mistakes like this will do little to endear them to the broadband-buying public.
Posted by Tom on June 15th 2007 in Broadband, BT Broadband, Pipex, Sky Broadband, Tiscali, Virgin Media
Orange has been given a stern telling off by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for claiming in a magazine advertisement that its Mobile + Broadband service is ‘unlimited’, whilst failing to mention its fair use policy.
Currently, ISPs are allowed to tout their unlimited services in ad campaigns so long as mention is given to a fair usage policy in the small print.
The advert was promoting a bundled mobile phone and broadband deal which featured Orange’s Unlimited Broadband package, which provides download speeds of up to 8mbps, with no specified monthly usage cap.
The near-10,000 strong petition to Downing Street to prevent the word ‘unlimited’ from being used in adverts that we reported on in March closed recently; the Government is expected to make an announcement soon following this and a number of reports in the press expressing customer frustration at Virgin‘s recent tactic of bottlenecking bandwidth traffic at peak times, whilst still claiming that their services are unlimited.
Until a decision is made, Orange and others will continue to promote their top-tier broadband service as being unlimited. A ban on listing premium services as unlimited would see the end of fair usage policies, and a subsequent rebranding of broadband services, which would allow customers to see exactly what they’re getting for their money.
Posted by Tom on June 14th 2007 in Broadband, Orange Broadband
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