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Regular Broadband-related news and comment from the Broadband.co.uk team.

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News stories relevant to broadband in the United Kingdom.

General Election 2019 Ballot Box

General Election 2019: what the parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are saying about broadband

Posted on 2019-12-06 14:49 in News

We've already taken a look at the national parties' broadband policies for the upcoming election. But if you're in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you've got other parties in the hunt for your vote, too, so let's see what they've got to say.

SNP

"We will also press the UK Government to invest in digital connectivity including superfast broadband and 5G technology. Since 2013, we have increased broadband to 95% of premises across Scotland, on time and on budget. Now only the SNP is committed to providing access to superfast broadband to every home and business in Scotland, investing £600 million towards this, with the UK Government providing just £21 million of that.

"SNP MPs will press for Scotland to get its fair share of the £5 billion UK Government funding to roll out gigabit broadband to the hardest to reach areas. We will call on the Shared Rural Network to deliver 95% 4G mobile coverage in Scotland – as applies for the rest of the UK. And we will press for the current review into the UK Telecoms Supply Chain to be concluded promptly.

"SNP MPs will work to bridge the digital divide to improve the availability and affordability of broadband and mobile services. We will press the UK government to reclassify the internet as an essential service and support affordable housing providers to make the service available. We will also work with broadband and mobile service providers to make more affordable tariffs and packages more widely available – and call for the UK Government to legislate for a social tariff."

Although broadband policy, including funding and management, is the responsibility of the UK government, the Scottish Parliament does get to decide how the money is spent north of the border. It can also add extra funding on top of what comes from Westminster.

The SNP policy is mostly built around these two points. They want to provide extra money to continue the rollout of superfast broadband across the country, and secure a chunk of the £5 billion pledged to improve broadband coverage in rural areas. According to Ofcom data from May 2019, some 4% of premises in Scotland are unable to access a basic service offering 10Mb downloads and 1Mb uploads - a worse rate than in both England (2%) and Wales (3%).

Plaid Cymru

"Creating a publicly owned Welsh Broadband Infrastructure Company to guarantee access to full-fibre broadband to every home and business in Wales by 2025.

"Cut the fibre tax - Fibre infrastructure currently has business rates applied to it, just like other commercial property. Plaid Cymru believes this discourages investment and should be rethought.

"New builds fit-for-purpose - Too many new homes are still being developed without provision for fibre broadband. Plaid Cymru wants all new build homes to incorporate gigabit-capable internet connections.

"Skills - A large number of engineers will be required to carry out all the work involved. Plaid Cymru would invest in training and skills for the industry to be able to meet the demand."

Only the first of the above policies has actually made the Plaid Cymru manifesto for 2019, and forms part of a series of infrastructure improvements under the banner of a "Green Jobs Revolution". The policy takes a similar line to Labour's plan of having the full-fibre rollout being handled by a publicly owned company, although they want to complete the job five years earlier. As of May 2019, 10% of premises in Wales had access to full-fibre broadband, a rate well above England and Scotland, but there's still a long way to go.

The other policies we've listed formed a three point plan the party unveiled in September. They are pretty much identical to the recommendations made by the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) in response to Boris Johnson's "full-fibre for all" announcement in the summer.

Northern Ireland Parties

Broadband in Northern Ireland is a mixture of good and bad. Full-fibre availability is by far the best in the UK, at 25% of premises, but broadband "not-spots" - where 5% of premises cannot access even a 10Mb connection - are the worst. Only two of the parties in Northern Ireland make reference to broadband in their manifestos, and in both cases it's merely a token mention.

DUP

"Digital network infrastructure, which connects us to the Internet, and to each other, is increasingly recognised as core economic infrastructure, like electricity, gas and water. They are central to tackling the UK’s productivity problem. The DUP will support:

  • Full fibre networks for the UK.
  • 5G network rollout."

Alliance Party

"Continue to support the development of broadband, high-speed mobile internet access and similar telecommunications projects in such a way that ensures all parts of the UK benefit from this technology."

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General Election 2019

General Election 2019: what are the parties' plans for broadband?

Posted on 2019-11-26 16:45 in News Features

As you might have noticed, there's an election coming up.

Obviously, broadband is not going to be one of the most important issues for most voters, yet it has played a surprisingly high profile role in the campaign so far, as parties use it as a way to show off their grand visions for Britain in the 2020s.

So what exactly are they promising? Fortunately, we've read the party manifestos so you don't have to. Here's what they're saying.

Conservatives broadband policy

"We intend to bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025.

"We know how difficult it will be, so we have announced a raft of legislative changes to accelerate progress and £5 billion of new public funding to connect premises which are not commercially viable."

The Tory policy is based on Boris Johnson's "full fibre for everyone by 2025" plan that he announced during his party leadership campaign, which we looked at back in August. The reaction at the time was that, while it was a nice idea, the timescale was just too ambitious.

No surprise, then, that the plan has been subtly tweaked. The manifesto now talks about "gigabit-capable" broadband rather than focussing wholly on fibre-to-the-home. This presumably includes Virgin Media's network, and maybe even 5G, as the rollout of that accelerates over the next five years.

The Tories have pledged £5 billion of funding to cover rural and other hard to reach areas. The rest of the estimated £30 billion will come through private investment.

Labour broadband policy

"Labour will deliver free full-fibre broadband to all by 2030.

"We will establish British Broadband, with two arms: British Digital Infrastructure (BDI) and the British Broadband Service (BBS). We will bring the broadband-relevant parts of BT into public ownership, with a jobs guarantee for all workers in existing broadband infrastructure and retail broadband work.

"BDI will roll out the remaining 90–92% of the full-fibre network, and acquire necessary access rights to existing assets. BBS will coordinate the delivery of free broadband in tranches as the full-fibre network is rolled out, beginning with the communities worst served by existing broadband networks. Taxation of multinationals, including tech giants, will pay for the operating costs of the public full-fibre network."

Labour have the most eye-catching policy by far, and either the most exciting or controversial depending on your point of view.

The first part is the renationalisation of Openreach, the BT-owned company that controls the UK's broadband infrastructure, and is part of their broader plan to bring water, the Post Office and the railways back under public control. They would then continue the rollout of the full-fibre network, starting with rural areas, with a target date of 2030. They've allocated four times as much money to this as the Tories, funded largely by taxes on the likes of Facebook and Google.

The pledge to provide free full-fibre broadband to everyone grabbed the headlines, but in truth it looks more like a long-term goal than a firm policy. There's no real detail and no acknowledgement of the ways the broadband landscape will change over the next decade. Plus, there will be at least two more general elections before that 2030 deadline.

So how viable is all of this, and what are the implications? Read our full analysis of Labour's broadband policy to find out.

Liberal Democrats broadband policy

"A programme of installing hyper-fast, fibre-optic broadband across the UK – with a particular focus on connecting rural areas.

"Reform building standards to ensure that all new homes built from 2022 have full connectivity to ultra-fast broadband and are designed to enable the use of smart technologies.

"Prioritise small and medium-sized businesses in the rollout of hyper-fast broadband.

"Ensure that all households and businesses have access to superfast broadband (30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload). Invest £2 billion in innovative solutions to ensure the provision of high-speed broadband across the UK, working with local authorities and providing grants to help areas replicate the success of existing community-led projects."

The Lib Dems' main broadband policy - to install a hyperfast network, with an emphasis on rural areas - is similar to what the two biggest parties are promising. It isn't costed, though, and presumably has an open ended timetable given the nature of two of their other more interesting policies: ensuring that new homes can get ultrafast (not hyperfast) broadband, and the guarantee that everyone will get at least 30Mb internet. This is an upgrade on the current 10Mb standard, although still a long way short of the gigabit speeds being promised elsewhere.

The Brexit Party broadband policy

"Partner with service providers to offer free base level domestic broadband in deprived regions and free Wi-Fi on all public transport."

The Brexit Party's stated aim in this election is to target Leave-voting seats in Labour strongholds. With this in mind, their one-sentence internet policy appears purely designed to give campaigners on the doorstep a way to counter support for Labour's own (and more ambitious) free broadband plan. That's about all we can say about it, since there's no detail to go on - "base level" isn't defined, and we don't know exactly who will get it, when, or how much the whole plan will cost.

The Green Party broadband policy

"Better connect rural communities through reliable broadband and mobile internet, delivered through councils who understand local connection needs.

"Roll out high speed broadband."

Nobody is going to vote for the Greens based on their broadband policy, and they know it. They've kept it short: like most other parties they've acknowledged the pressing need to upgrade the infrastructure in rural areas, and that's about it.

Confused about some of the issues discussed in these manifestos? Read more about the challenges of rural broadband, the different types of fibre broadband, and how 5G may soon be our fastest way to access the internet.

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Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson

'Life changing policy' or 'crazed communism' - Labour's free fast broadband pledge explained

Posted on 2019-11-15 19:33 in News

Social media has been buzzing with reaction to Labour’s latest election pledge - free, fast, full fibre broadband for everyone. But what have they actually promised and what would it mean for your broadband?

Well the first part of their proposed plan is to renationalise Openreach and the parts of BT that sell broadband products in order to form a British Broadband service. This follows Labour’s existing pledges to renationalise the railways, Royal Mail and water companies.

The second part is to give everyone in the country the fastest full-fibre broadband for free - a pretty bold and eye-catching election pledge!

Corbyn called it a “fresh, transformational polic[y] that will change your life” while Johnson has declared it a “crazed communist scheme”, but what does it all mean and could it possibly work?

Could they actually pull this off if elected?

It’s hard to say exactly at this point because this is only an election pledge and the full manifesto has yet to be published, but we do have the full text of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech announcing Labour’s broadband plans as well as interviews given by shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

The main thing we do know is that fully free fibre broadband is only promised by the year 2030, which is so far in the future that the technological landscape is likely to be extremely different.

By then 5G mobile broadband or an even faster future technology is likely to be widespread. It’s also likely that well before then many households will be connecting their homes to the internet using 5G mobile routers. Many of these already look and work like smart speakers mimicking those of the big brands. Whichever one of Amazon, Apple, Google or some other tech giant tha first offers 5G connectivity as default may completely change how broadband works, it may even be bundled free with smart devices or home hubs - rather than getting broadband free from the government it may be free from whichever multinational corporation you choose to buy devices from.

2030 is so far in the future, it’s hard to predict!

What we find far more interesting and far more relevant to the near future than the promise of free broadband a decade from now is the proposal to nationalise Openreach.

What is Openreach?

Openreach is one of the BT Group companies that’s been separated from BT’s commercial arm. Openreach operate the telephone exchanges and install and maintain telephone lines, fibre-optic cables and street cabinets. It’s also Openreach engineers who would come to your home to install broadband equipment if needed.

Most UK broadband uses Openreach telephone exchanges, cables and engineers because it’s all delivered over your telephone lines. Only broadband that’s provided by cable companies and smaller full fibre suppliers like Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear avoids using Openreach’s broadband delivery system and engineers, as do 4G and 5G mobile broadband services and those based in Hull where BT never operated.

This doesn’t mean that every broadband service delivered through Openreach’s infrastructure is the same. While many broadband services are re-selling the same Openreach products, others use a system called Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) to allow them to install their own equipment in Openreach exchanges, which has historically allowed faster speeds and cheaper prices than other broadband providers.

However, this only ever made a significant difference to speeds in the era of phoneline-only (ADSL) broadband, so it hasn’t really been the case since part-fibre (FTTC) products offering speeds around 36Mbps or 67Mbps became the most common products sold. Openreach controls the fibre street cabinets, so competition for part-fibre products has only been on price and bundled extras, everyone using Openreach infrastructure is essentially selling the same broadband.

What will this mean for broadband?

Well for one thing, a national full fibre network will be important back end infrastructure underlying 5G mobile broadband and whatever comes after that. Fibre-optic is a ‘future-proofed’ technology that gets faster over time, only limited by the tech that deciphers the messages delivered down the fibres at the speed of light. In fact, we would have had superfast broadband in the 1990s and ultrafast broadband in the 2000s if not for the privatisation of BT putting a halt to the rollout of a national fibre-optic network in the 1980s.

The other main benefit of a nationalised equivalent of Openreach is that plans to install fibre-optic infrastructure can prioritise rural and remote areas that are the most in need of better broadband technology. And this appears to be exactly what Labour intends to do.

When a commercial company rolls out a new communications technology, it tends to go to the most heavily populated areas. Not only that, it’s usually those where people have the most money, or at least are most likely to buy new technologies such as areas with lots of students or young professionals.

In practice this means that new technologies often come to areas that already have the fastest broadband available and often have a choice of fast broadband options from other companies like Virgin Media or even full-fibre from suppliers like Hyperoptic. This was the case with part-fibre broadband and 4G, and it’s already the case with next generation G.fast and 5G rollouts.

This is because commercial companies need to guarantee that they’ll make enough money to not only pay for the costs of installing and running the service, but also that they’ll make a lot of profit on top of these costs in order to pay their shareholders and executives.

With a nationalised service rolling new technology out, only the costs need to be covered, and profit is rolled back into making services better. Effectively, the taxpayers are the shareholders and the government are the executives.

So in theory, nationalised broadband service would be able to prioritise getting everyone in the country to a minimum level of broadband speed. Meaning areas that already have a reasonable broadband speed would be at the back of the queue and, for once, those areas where there’s currently no good broadband service or no broadband at all would get put to the front of the queue to even the playing field.

Should the government stay out of broadband?

The major political parties all recognise that rollout of broadband to the most under-served areas of the country is a problem. The disagreement is over how best to address the problem.

This Conservative government and past governments have already recognised that commercial neglect of rural and remote broadband provision is a problem.

£780 million of taxpayer money was spent on the rollout of faster part-fibre broadband to less commercially-viable, mostly rural areas under the Broadband Development UK (BDUK) scheme.

This used a convoluted process where companies were meant to bid in local authority areas and the companies with the best bids in each area would be granted the contract by the local authority to install new broadband infrastructure in that area. Due to Openreach effectively having the monopoly on the type of infrastructure work involved, in all but a handful of areas all this money went to the BT Group and Openreach ended up doing the work. As a result this was criticised as inefficient and a waste of time and resources.

Broadband has also been designated an essential service and so the Universal Service Obligation, that was previously applied to voice telephone services in 2003, is being applied to broadband services from 2020. This will mean that everyone in the UK must be able to achieve at least 2Mbps broadband (or an alternative type of internet connection).

The Conservative party also recognises that none of this is enough and have pledged £5 billion to bring gigabit (1,000Mbps) broadband connections to the hardest-to-reach 20% of the population by 2025. They’ve also promised a Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund that they claim will unlock an expected £1 billion of further public and private investment in full fibre broadband.

We’ve examined whether the government’s proposals were viable back when it was a leadership campaign pledge.

How are Labour proposing to pay for this?

Again, we don’t know all the details yet, because the full manifesto is yet to be published, but we do know that a large part will involve taxing the big multinational tech companies like Google and Facebook, which are notable for avoiding paying UK tax at present.

However, the government has criticised Labour’s spending estimates and pointed out that the task of buying back privatised services and setting a new British Broadband service is likely to be extremely disruptive and add significant delays to the rollout of gigabit fibre broadband, and also discourage private investment in broadband technologies. In fact the sale of TalkTalk has already been disrupted by these plans and BT’s stock prices have plummeted.

The government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has already commissioned a detailed report into how gigabit broadband could possibly be rolled out to the last 20% in such a short timeframe, and this report does support the government’s criticism that switching to a monopoly provider would cause the most disruption and delays in the initial stages. However, in the longer term the government’s report may support Labour’s proposition that a nationalised service is the only way to guarantee a fair rollout of 100% fibre coverage.

The report looked at 3 different scenarios, one of which was a national monopoly, albeit one run by a commercial company such as Openreach, not a government owned nationalised provider.

In the 15 year projection, the only option that offered the closest to 100% coverage for full fibre broadband with the same prices charged to customers nationwide was the monopoly provider solution.

The projection for the current situation was likely to have 60% coverage in 15 years time, the ‘enhanced competition’ scenario would cover 80% in 15 years time leaving another 20% for competitors to cover (which would likely hit the same problems with needing to prioritise profitability) and the ‘franchising’ scenario also potentially covered 100% but was likely to charge customers more in low competition areas than in urban areas (something that has happened before with Ofcom’s market classification system where if you have no choice for a cheaper provider, the provider is allowed to charge you more for the same service).

The report also found a number of downsides to their national monopoly scenario - mainly that there would be no incentive to innovate and install new technologies when there are no competitors pushing technology forward. This was demonstrated with how mobile network technologies rolled out slower in monopoly countries than in those with multiple mobile networks, and how the pattern repeated with every generation of mobile broadband speed.

However, this is arguably not a problem in a nationalised scenario where the government sets the ambitious innovation targets. Particularly when ambitious full-fibre broadband proposals are so frequently central to political campaigning.

What does the future hold?

So will we have the very fastest broadband free for everyone by 2030? Would a Labour government be able to balance the books? Who knows! It’s too far in the future to judge what broadband will look like in a decade, we could all be getting it free from Facebook, Apple or Google by then, rather than free from the government.

If a Labour government stayed in power until 2030 and managed to deliver on the promise of the very fastest broadband free for everyone, that would be hugely disruptive and reaction from broadband service providers has been strongly negative.

But in the shorter term, the government’s own report seems to suggest that a nationalised version of Openreach might be the only chance we have to deliver cheap full-fibre broadband for the parts of the UK that currently need it the most.

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Ofcom Logo

Broadband.co.uk reaccredited by Ofcom!

Posted on 2019-09-03 11:14 in Announcements News

We're very pleased to announce that Broadband.co.uk has been reaccredited by Ofcom! We've been accredited by Ofcom since 2010, and undergo regular independent audits every 18 months to ensure that our comparison service meets their rigorous standards.

Lindsey Fussell, Director of Ofcom's Consumer and External Relations Group, had this to say on the subject:

"Price comparison services like broadband.co.uk play an important role in helping people to choose a provider, by offering helpful information on services and costs. Ofcom's accreditation scheme means people can be confident that the information they've received is accurate, clear and up to date."

We take pride in the fact that we make every effort to ensure that the information we supply is accurate and up to date and presented clearly to users of our site. This means you can be confident you're getting the best service when you use our postcode checker to find the broadband deal that works for you.

Our CEO, Edd Dawson, had this to say in response to the news.

"It's fantastic to yet again be re-accredited by Ofcom. The broadband market is complex and diverse, our aim is to make it simple for consumers to find and switch to the best deal for them. Being part of the accreditation scheme is key to demonstrating that we are impartial, open and honest with our recommendations."

We look forward to continuing to provide users of our site with a service that they can trust well into the future.

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Fibre optic broadband

Is Boris Johnson's plan for full fibre broadband possible?

Posted on 2019-08-22 14:34 in News

Among the very many pronouncements made by Boris Johnson over the last few months was the strikingly ambitious plan to make full fibre broadband available to the whole of the UK within the next six years. It received a cautious welcome from the industry, along with warnings that there are some big challenges that will need to be overcome first.

The pledge replaces the Government's existing aspiration to deliver full fibre to 'a majority' of homes by 2025 - with the rest to be completed by 2033. However, it is still a pledge, rather than a detailed policy announcement, and there are questions as to whether it's really achievable.

What's in the pledge?

The goal in itself is laudable. When it comes to ultrafast internet we lag behind most other European countries, from Spain and Sweden to Latvia and Lithuania. The PM's 'full fibre' pledge refers to what's known as 'fibre to the premises' (FTTP) broadband. This is a much faster type of broadband supplied by fibre cables connected directly to every building. Currently, most of us get 'fibre to the cabinet' (FTTC), where the fibre cables only extend to the nearest street cabinet and the last part of the connection is made over old, slow copper wires.

The difference between the two technologies is huge. While most current fibre deals offer speeds up to around 68Mb, FTTP makes 1Gb speeds a reality. That's a good 15 times faster.

But the sheer scale of the project cannot be understated. The network needs to cover the best part of 30 million premises. That's a lot of streets to dig up, a lot of planning permissions to be attained, and a lot of skilled workers to be found to do it all. It also needs a lot of cash - estimated to be around £30 billion - paid mostly by private companies but also including an as yet unspecified chunk of public money.

While FTTC is available to over 95% of UK buildings, full fibre covers just 8% right now. Researchers have calculated that to achieve full coverage by the end of the 2025 financial year FTTP would need to become available to over 11 thousand more homes every day. That's a big upgrade on the current total thought to be around three or four thousand. Hence the industry's scepticism.

The industry response

In response to Boris Johnson's plans, three industry groups signed an open letter outlining the issues that would need to be resolved in order to make it possible. The Internet Service Providers Association, the Federation of Communications Services, and the Independent Networks Co-operative Association called for four main changes:

  • Fibre tax. They want the abolition of business rates that tax fibre cables as if they were business buildings. The groups say that this hinders investment.
  • Wayleave agreements. Unresponsive landlords can delay the rollout of broadband services, so the industry wants wayleave agreements that would allow providers access to properties and land.
  • New builds. Changes to planning laws are needed to require all new builds to have fibre infrastructure as standard. It's currently around three in five.
  • Skills. The industry is concerned about a skills shortage post-Brexit, so wants to retain access to global job markets.

They were also keen to emphasise just how big the job would be, but insisted they were "ready and waiting to take on this considerable engineering challenge".

Alternatives to FTTP

Upgrading the UK's broadband network is a plan we can all get behind. But does the upgrade need to be so fully focussed on fibre?

The network is already being upgraded with the G.fast service in many areas. G.fast supercharges the normal fibre to the cabinet infrastructure simply through the installation of nodes in existing street cabinets. No extra cables, and no digging up streets are needed. It still uses copper wires, and isn't as good as FTTP, but it's quicker and cheaper to roll out. It can also achieve decent speeds of up to 300Mb, with much higher speeds possible in future generations of the technology.

And then there's 5G, which launched this summer and is already available in 15 cities, expanding to over 35 by the end of the year. 5G will be able to deliver those all-important gigabit speeds, and with a much bigger capacity the download limits that plagued 4G will be consigned to the past. Those two factors will make 5G a much more viable option for home broadband.

The 5G rollout will take some time, but by 2025 it's likely that many of us will have already switched. It'll be especially valuable in rural parts where installing fibre cables will be take a lot longer and be more expensive. Perhaps using a combination of complementary technologies would be a more achievable way of upgrading British broadband, rather than going all in on just one.

If you don't want to wait to experience the benefits, you can already get 5G home broadband through a few suppliers in limited areas. You can get unlimited data for £50 a month from Vodafone, and it's even available on a 30-day deal if you don't want to commit long term. EE have their own 5G Hub that costs £50 a month with 50GB of data, but is on a 24 month contract. If you live in London, then you may be able to take advantage of 5G from Three now. O2 will follow suit in the coming months, along with more locations for all providers.

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Man with laptop

Can you keep your email address when switching broadband providers?

Posted on 2019-07-26 16:56 in News Features

So you're ready to switch broadband providers. You've compared the best deals, you're going to get a faster service, and save heaps of money. But there's a snag: your old provider also supplies your email address. Can you take it with you?

Free email offers are not quite as common as they used to be, and they're certainly less of a selling point. This means that if you do have an email address from an ISP, you've probably had it for a very long time.

Trouble is, they own that address. If you choose to switch providers there's no guarantee you'll be able to keep using it.

The process to switch broadband provider has been made much easier, and switching will certainly save you money. But the prospect of losing your email address can be a pretty compelling reason to stick with what you've got. So what can you do? Let's take a look.

Can you switch broadband suppliers and keep your email?

There's no simple answer to whether you can keep your email address after you leave a provider. Each company has their own policy, and you might need to contact them before you switch to find out exactly what will happen.

Here's what you can expect from the main providers:

  • Sky: Sky's now-discontinued email service was provided by Yahoo, so you can carry on using it as normal. You can even sign in via the Yahoo website.
  • BT: You can keep your BT email address if you're willing to pay. You have to sign up to the BT Premium Mail service which will set you back a hefty £7.50 a month. We wouldn't recommend that unless there's some reason why you absolutely need to keep your address.
  • Plusnet: By default, your Plusnet email account will be closed when you close your broadband account. However, you can keep it open by requesting your account gets downgraded to a mail-only package, costing £1.06 a month. It's important to note that you must request this when you contact them to close your account - don't wait until afterwards.
  • Virgin Media: When you leave Virgin Media you'll continue to have access to your email for 90 days after you close your account. This should give you enough time to set up and switch to a new email address.
  • TalkTalk: On TalkTalk you need to pay to keep access to your email address. You do this by signing up to the TalkTalk Mail Plus service, which will cost you £5 a month, or £50 a year.

Bear in mind that even if you can keep your email address now, there's no guarantee you'll be able to keep it forever. Providers can change their policies, or discontinue services, at any time. And if you're no longer a customer of that provider you won't really have grounds to complain.

With this in mind, we'd always recommend against using an email address tied to a specific provider. And if you already use one, it's worth switching.

How to switch email addresses the easy way

The simple solution to all of the above is to switch to a new email address. Most of us have already got Google or Microsoft accounts, which give us free Gmail and Outlook email, respectively. Or if you don't fancy giving all your data to one of these tech giants, you could try a free, privacy-focussed service like Proton Mail instead.

The idea of switching email addresses sounds like a bit of a faff, but with some planning you can make it reasonably painless. The trick is to open and start using your new address at least a month before your old address gets shut down. That way you can get everything sorted and there should be no interruptions to your email access.

Here's a checklist of things you need to do:

  • In your old account, set up email forwarding. This automatically sends a copy of all new messages to your new account.
  • Log in to all your main online services and change the email address associated with those accounts. Prioritise the important ones first - banking, bills, subscription services like Netflix, social media accounts, and so on. Don't forget to change the main email account on your phone, too.
  • Export your contacts from your old account. Send an email to your key contacts to let them know you've got a new address.
  • If you used webmail on your old account, manually forward any important mails you need to keep to your new address. Alternatively, if you're switching to Gmail you can use the Import Mail and Contacts features to pull it all across in one go.
  • Finally, for security purposes you could delete all the emails in your old account, and set a new, strong password. Although the account may shut down on its scheduled date, there's no guarantee that will happen. It might lie dormant for several months, which could leave it at risk of being compromised.

If you do miss any services that are linked to your old email address, don't worry. You'll still be able to log in to them after the account has closed down, as long as you can remember the password.

Once your new email address is up and running don't forget to sign up for our exclusive newsletter. It'll keep you bang up to date with all the hottest broadband deals and offers in your area.

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People using mobile phones

5 things you need to know about 5G

Posted on 2019-07-19 17:01 in News Features

5G is now up and running in the UK. EE and Vodafone have both launched their fifth-generation mobile networks, Three will launch theirs in August, and O2 is set to join the party a month later.

Great! But wait - what exactly is 5G, and what will it mean for you? We've got an in-depth guide to 5G, with the full lowdown on the new tech and why it's so important. But if you'd prefer a quick and easy bluffer's guide, here's what you need to know.

1. 5G is fast

Think the 20-25Mb speeds of 4G are already pretty quick? How does 200-250Mb grab you? Typical 5G speeds are ten times faster than 4G right from day one. Find the perfect conditions and it can go way beyond even that, with Three claiming that their network will hit a potential 2Gb.

And it doesn't stop there. Industry experts reckon 5G could eventually deliver speeds up to a mind-blowing 20Gb.

What do the faster speeds mean? It'll improve everything you do online, from simple browsing to sharing huge files, it'll deliver instantaneous app downloads, and even allow you to watch Netflix in 4K on your daily commute.

2. It'll work in crowded places

5G fixes one of the biggest frustrations of 4G, its limited capacity. You'll know the signs: you try to use your phone in a crowded place and have to struggle along with a grindingly slow connection - if you get a connection at all. The network simply isn't equipped to handle the amount of traffic we're throwing at it.

The 5G network will enable two and a half times as many devices to be connected at once, and to download a whole lot more data while they're there. That means no more waiting around when you want to go online.

3. 5G will be great for broadband

The faster speeds and higher capacity are so important. They don't just mean that we'll get faster streaming and sharing on our smartphones, they will also completely revolutionise mobile broadband.

If you need a data connection on your laptop while you're on the road, you can expect more reliable performance, faster speeds, and - best of all - significantly higher data allowances. In time, 5G could even become a decent option for home broadband, especially in more remote areas where the existing fibre network is so poor.

4. You'll need new devices

Here's the bad news: your existing 4G-enabled phones, tablets, laptops, watches and dongles will not work on the 5G network. You'll have to replace them all. That includes your iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, and everything else.

The good news? There's no rush. There aren't many 5G devices right now, and they carry a price premium. Unless you're an early adopter itching to try it out, you can probably wait a couple of years before 5G gear is a must. And by then, devices will support it as standard anyway. Meanwhile, your 4G kit will continue to work just as well as it always has.

5. The rollout will take some time

So when will you be able to use 5G? It's available right now in major cities like London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. By the end of the year it'll be available in over 30 locations, from Bournemouth to Birkenhead, and then in over 50 places by the end of next year. Different networks will target different places, so you might need to switch.

But the rollout will take some time. Even areas that do have 5G won't have blanket coverage, and if you're in smaller town it might be two or three years before 5G arrives.

For more information on 5G, including how it works and why it'll be a complete game changer in so many other ways, take a look at our full 5G guide. Or, if you'd prefer, have a look at some of the best mobile broadband deals you can buy today.

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Virgin Media with £150 credit

Discounts, rewards, credit and tech in our broadband offers roundup!

Posted on 2019-07-08 15:16 in News Offers Three Plusnet BT John Lewis Virgin Media Shell Energy

There are so many strong broadband offers being presented this week that we felt it was time for another round up of the best broadband discounts and rewards around.

Onestream has one of the cheapest broadband deals we've ever seen. The Flow Unlimited package offers average speeds of 11Mb and is an impressively low £13.99 a month on a 12 month contract, with line rental included! Onesteam also have a range of competitively priced Fibre products, starting with their 17Mb average speed truly unlimited Jetstream Lite Fibre that comes in at just £17.99 a month on a 12 month contract with line rental included - that's cheaper than many provider's standard broadband deals!1 £9.99 setup cost applies on all offers.

Shell Energy aren't far behind Onestream for extremely cheap standard broaband, their Fast Broadband package with average speeds of 11Mb is only £15.99 a month all in.2

There are also a number of strong reward offers on this week. For example, if you want a Fibre package from BT, then not only will you get a BT Reward card, you'll also receive a Marks & Spencer voucher! Superfast Fibre is £31.99 a month and comes with an £80 M&S voucher and a £30 Reward Card, while Superfast Fibre 2 is £39.99 a month with an £80 M&S voucher and a £60 Reward Card.3

Plusnet have a mix of reward cards and cashback offers on their broadband and phone bundles this week. Unlimited Broadband is £18.99 a month in low cost areas and comes with £75 cashback, Unlimited Fibre is £24.50 a month and comes with £50 cashback, while the Unlimited Fibre Extra package is £27.50 a month and comes with a £60 reward card. You'll need to hurry, because the Fibre offers end tomorrow night!4

John Lewis are bundling in a Google Home Hub with all their broadband products. This is a hands-free Smart Speaker with a 7" screen worth £119! You can choose between Broadband Unlimited with average speeds of 10Mb for £20 a month, Fibre Broadband with average speeds of 36Mb for £28.50 a month or Fibre Extra with average speeds of 66Mb for £35 a month.5

Blink and you'll miss it, Virgin Media's flash sale on TV bundles starts today. You can get a fantastic £150 bill credit on select broadband and TV packages. Choose from the Bigger Bundle for £57 a month, Bigger Bundle + Movies for £62 a month or the Bigger Bundle + Sports for £72 a month - all of these packages have average speeds of 108Mb. If you to up your speeds to an average of 213Mb and get more TV options, you can get the Bigger Bundle + Sports & Movies for £79 a month. Or you could go all out and get Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, BT Sport, Kids Pick and whopping average speeds of 516Mb with the Ultimate Oomph Bundle for £99 a month. Hurry, this offer ends on the 12th July!6

Finally, Three's already excellent unlimited usage offer on the HomeFi 4G home broadband router has been further discounted! You can now get unlimited data for just £11.50 a month for the first 6 months of the 24 month contract. After that, it's only £23 a month! Find out all you need to know about 4G home broadband in our dedicated help page on the subject.7

Confused about all the different types of rewards and how to claim them? Our Broadband Rewards Explained help page has all you need to know!


All offers available to new customers only unless otherwise specified. Some offers only available in provider network areas. Use our Use our postcode checker or verify on the provider landing pages to find out what's available in your area. See respective landing pages for full terms and conditions and details of how to claim rewards.

1. 12 month minimum contract. Standard broadband price rises to £24.99 from month 13, Fibre Lite rises to £27.99 from month 13. £9.99 delivery fee for the router applies to all deals. Further terms and conditions may apply, see Onestream site for details. Offer is only available via the landing pages linked from this blog post and may end at any time.

2. All Shell Energy deals are on an 18 month contract. Prices will rise from month 19, see Shell Energy site for more details. Offers are only available via the landing page linked from this blog post and ends 11:59pm 8th August.

3. All BT products are on an 18 month contract. Connection fees may apply. Prices increase from month 19, see website for out of contract prices. BT reward is a prepaid Mastercard of the specified amount. BT have announced the intention to raise all prices by a small amount annually from March 2020 in line with the consumer price index, this figure is published each January. Offers end 11:59pm 11th July.

4. All Plusnet deals are on an 18 month contract. Connection fees may apply. Prices increase at the end of the offer period when your contract is up, see website for out of contract prices. Customers outside Plusnet Low Cost network areas pay an additional £7.50 per month on all broadband products. Plusnet reward is a prepaid Mastercard of the specified amount, cashback will be issued as a cheque when your broadband is active. Offers are only available via the link in this blog post. Fibre broadband offers end 11:59pm 9th July, standard broadband offer ends 11:59pm 16th July.

5. Virgin Media packages are on a 12 month contract, prices will rise from month 13. £35 upfront cost applies. Credit will be applied to your first bill. See Virgin Media website for full details about included channels and extras. Offer ends 11:59pm 10th July.

6. John Lewis Broadband products come on a 12 month contract, John Lewis will contact you before this is up to inform you of price rises from month 13. Offer ends 11:59pm 30th July.

7. 24 month minimum contract. Availability and speeds vary depending on the mobile coverage in your area and level of usage on the same cell tower. Traffic prioritisation will apply so some services may be slower during peak times. Offer ends 11:59pm 22nd August. Three have announced the intention to raise all prices by a small amount annually from March 2020 in line with the consumer price index, this figure is published each January. Check coverage for your area on the Three website.

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Plusnet with £70 Reward card

EXPIRED: Get May off to a great start by bagging yourself a fabulous broadband deal

Posted on 2019-05-03 20:51 in News Offers Expired TalkTalk Sky Plusnet SSE Three BT NOW Broadband

Spring is definitely underway, the weather is (mostly) improving, and while you're probably pondering a bit of spring cleaning over the bank holiday weekend it might also be time to look at freshening up your broadband deal at the same time. We've selected some of the best broadband offers for you below.

Plusnet have reward card offers of varying amounts on all of their broadband and phone bundles this week. Unlimited Broadband is £18.99 a month in low cost areas and comes with a £65 reward card, Unlimited Fibre is currently at £23.50 a month and comes with a £50 reward card, while the Unlimited Fibre Extra package is £27.50 a month and comes with a whopping £70 reward card!1

BT's offer this week is an Amazon Echo, worth £89.99, on their Superfast Fibre 2 packages. You'll also get a £60 BT Reward Card, increasing the total value of this offer to £149.99! Superfast Fibre 2 is £39.99 a month if it's available in your area. Superfast Fibre 1 customers haven't been left out; while there's no Amazon Echo bundled in, you can get fibre broadband for £29.99 along with a £90 BT Reward Card!2

If fibre isn't available in your area, or you're a light user and just want the cheapest option, there's BT Broadband with average speeds of 10Mb for £24.99 with a £60 Reward Card. These deals are also available on BT TV packages, which start at £34.99 a month.2

SSE's Unlimited Fibre broadband package is just £23 a month on an 18 month contract and comes with a £55 reward, which is a choice between a pre-paid Mastercard or an Amazon.co.uk gift card. You'll need to hurry, this offer ends Sunday night and is only available via the link in this blog post!3

Sky's Broadband Unlimited and Fibre Max packages both come with a £50 voucher, a choice between a Tesco or Ticketmaster gift card. Broadband Unlimited is £20 a month and Fibre Max is £27 a month. This offer is also only available via the link in this blog post. 4

TalkTalk's Fast Broadband is currently only £17 per month for the 12 month contract, and you'll also receive a £50 voucher of your choice for Amazon, Argos, Tesco or Ticketmaster! Again, this offer isn't on our usual listings, so be sure to sign up via the link in this blog post.5

NOW Broadband's offer of 6 month Entertainment Pass and free Anytime calls on all their broadband products is still going, but you'll need to hurry as it ends early next week. If you're looking to watch the final season of Game of Thrones, then this may be the perfect deal for you. The Entertainment Pass comes with 11 pay TV entertainment channels not available on Freeview, including Sky Atlantic, FOX, Comedy Central and Discovery Channel, and over 300 Box Sets to watch On Demand. Brilliant Broadband is £18 a month, Fab Fibre £25 a month and, in areas where it's available, Super Fibre is £30 a month. If you're an existing Entertainment Pass customer taking out a new broadband contract, then you can redeem this offer in the final 30 days of your current subscription.6

Finally, a fantastic offer for people in broadband not-spots who can get a decent mobile signal. 4G home broadband from Three is just £25 a month and comes with a Huawei AI Cube, a wireless router that acts like a smart speaker and has the Alexa voice assistant built in. What's more, you also get unlimited data each month! If you're not interested in smart gadgets, then Three's basic HomeFi deal also boasts unlimited data for just £22 a month. Find out all you need to know about 4G home broadband in our dedicated help page on the subject.7

Confused about all the different types of rewards and how to claim them? Our Broadband Rewards Explained help page has all you need to know!

 


All offers available to new customers only unless otherwise specified. Some offers only available in provider network areas. Use our Use our postcode checker to find out what's available in your area. See respective landing pages for full terms and conditions and details of how to claim rewards.

1. Standard broadband products are on a 12 month contract, fibre products on an 18 month contract. Connection fees may apply. Prices increase at the end of the offer period when your contract is up, see website for out of contract prices. Customers outside Plusnet Low Cost network areas pay an additional £7.50 per month on all broadband products. Plusnet reward is a prepaid Mastercard of the specified amount. Offers end 11:59pm 7th May.

2. All BT products are on an 18 month contract. Connection fees may apply. Prices increase from month 19, see website for out of contract prices. BT reward is a prepaid Mastercard of the specified amount. Offers end 11:59pm 7th May.

3. SSE Unlimited Fibre is on an 18 month contract. You must enter a valid email address on the Giftcloud landing page before you sign up. Offer ends 11:59pm 5th May.

4. Sky deals are on an 18 month contract. You must enter a valid email address on the WeGift landing page before you sign up. Offer ends 11:59pm 7th May.

5. TalkTalk Fast Broadband is on a 12 month contract. You must enter a valid email address on the Giftcloud landing page before you sign up. Offer ends 11:59pm 9th May.

6. NOW Broadband products come on a 12 month contract, or a 1 month contract with a £60 setup fee. Offer is also available on their 1 month contracts, though an ongoing broadband subscription is required for the 6 month pass. Pass auto-renews from month 7 at £7.99 a month, unless cancelled. You can cancel any time. Offer ends 11:59pm 7th May.

7. 24 month minimum contract. Availability and speeds vary depending on the mobile coverage in your area and level of usage on the same cell tower. Traffic prioritisation will apply so some services may be slower during peak times. Check coverage for your area on the Three website.

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Broadband compensation

Automatic compensation for loss of broadband service goes live from today

Posted on 2019-04-01 16:56 in News TalkTalk Zen Plusnet BT EE Sky Vodafone Virgin Media Hyperoptic

A new voluntary code introduced by Ofcom goes into effect today. This scheme means that the broadband providers who have signed up will have to reimburse customers in the event of their broadband or landline phone service being down for longer than two days. Here's what you need to know.

The compensation you can expect

  • Delayed repair following loss of service - if a fault takes longer than two days to fix, you can expect £8 for each day after that period that your broadband is not repaired
  • Missed appointments - if the engineer does not turn up or your appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours of notice, you can expect £25 per missed appointment
  • Delays with the start of a new service - if your broadband does not go live on the agreed date, you can expect £5 for each day of delay, including the missed start date

Homes and small to medium businesses who choose to use residential broadband are eligible for compensation on this scheme, and you should only need to report the fault for compensation to be paid out automatically.

To qualify for compensation, faults must not be of your own making (for example, your problem is down to your own wiring and equipment, you shove a spade through a vital cable on your property, or you're not at home for an engineer visit). You're also due compensation in the event of extreme weather causing problems and third-party incidents that contribute to the delay of repairs.

The providers taking part

Originally BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen signed up to the agreement back when it was proposed in 2017. Since then EE, Hyperoptic, Plusnet and Vodafone have also signed up, accounting for more than 95% of broadband and landline customers in the UK. While most of these providers will be participating in this scheme from today, Hyperoptic and Vodafone will start automatic compensation later this year, and EE should be ready to do so next year.

Find more information in Ofcom's press release.

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