With Tina Leonard
Broadband choice and prices
When it comes to broadband, price and reliability are as important as speed to a majority of customers. That’s according to research that also found 40% of Irish adults find current broadband packages confusing.
That is not surprising given that download speeds and usage caps vary between providers even though it’s the headline price you may notice first.
Added to that, depending on where you live you may not have much choice at all as to what broadband servcies you can access.
So what are the different types of broadband on offer, why do you need to keep your eye on the market and are bundled packages cheaper?
Tina Leonard is here to explain.
The different ways to get broadband
There are myriad ways to receive broadband:
Cable (i.e. UPC)DSL (i.e. via phone line – Eircom, Vodafone, Sky, Magnet, Digiweb etc)Wireless (i.e. Imagine, Digiweb, Ripplecom, Net1 etc)Satellite (i.e. Onwave, Qsat etc)Dongle (i.e. usual phone providers)
Before we start talking about prices and what solution might be best for you, the crucial thing to know is that you may not have a choice.
If you are in an urban area you should have a choice however, both for cable (UPC delivers to approximately 800,000 homes) and for DSL via several providers to over 1 million homes.
But if you are in some areas, mainly rural, you may not have access to cable but you most likely do have acess to DSL broadband (over the phone). However you may noy yet have access to fibre powered broadband and in some cases, your phone line may not be not strong enough to support DSL and so you might only be able to choose between wireless or satellite for example.
Given the gaps in coverage nationally, there is a National Broadband Scheme that is operated by 3. Under this if you’ve no other options you can avail of a €20 per month deal for broadband via satellite or dongle.
Key 1: You may not be able to get what you want, depending on where you live.
How do the various types of broadband differ?
The different methods of receiving broadband differ in the main on speed, usage caps and uninterupted access.
So, cable (i.e. UPC) offers the fastest speeds (150Mb) and has installed fibre powered broadband. They say that you are never more than 300 metres away from their fibre ‘box/hub’. The DSL providers on the other are reliant on phone lines. This means that the copper lines may be old and may be several kilometers away from the exchange, resulting in less fast speeds and possible interuptions. This is why speeds are advertised as ‘up to’ as really the speeds you receive will be as fast as your line can go. Having said that, Eircom is launching fibre powered broadband later this month as is Magnet, and it’s coming soon from Vodafone too, so speed service and reliability should improve as a consequence.
When it comes to wireless and satelite broadband for example, you are at the mercy of bad weather.
It’s not surprising then that Amarach research (conducted for Sky) found that 93% rate price and reliability as important as speed. After all you may not even be able to access the speeds offered.
So in order of best speeds offered your options are 1. Cable, 2. DSL, 3. Wireless, 4. Satellite / dongle.
Now, speed may be relevant for you if you watch a lot of TV online for example (RTE and TV3 players for example) and download or stream movies and TV programmes via Netflix or through your subscriotion service with Sky or UPC.
Even so, an average speed should be absolutely fine for these activities.
But if you are a very light user, just checking websites and sending emails, speed may not be an issue at all.
This is also relevent for any usage caps on a deal. Some offer unlimited use but other cap the amount you can download. For example, if there is a usage cap of 2GB you will probably need more than this if downloading movies and so on.
Key 2: Speed varies depending on broadband type and usage caps vary. So, what do you use the internet for?
Why you need to keep your eye on the market.
I’ve just mentioned that Eircom and Magnet are rolling out fibre powered broadband soon, meaning speeds and access are getting better all the time. In addition Sky recently entered the broadband market.
This means there is increased competition and also that the offerings of providers continually change.
For example, Sky’s entry to the market acted as a catylst for price change in the guise of special offers from Vodafone, Eircom and UPC. If you are with these providers you might be on a more expensive deal and could change.
So, you must not fall into the trap of hanging on to a deal you signed up to four, two or even one year ago (legacy deals). The prices keep changing and so too does what’s available. For example, Sky broadband is now available to over 1.5million homes and Magnet’s rollout of broadband at the end of this month starts with 500,000 homes and will extend to over 1 million.
Key 3: Increasingly you have greater choice on types of broadband, speeds and price. So don’t fall into the intertia trap!
Ditch the landline or bundle?
If you don’t use a landline you don’t need one to get broadband. But there are two crucial things to consider.
Firstly, if you use the landline you’ll be able to access a better broadband product and secondly, the bundled deals offer best value in the marketplace so you may even be able to get better value by having both.
For example, let’s say you are an Eircom customer and pay €30 a month for unlimited off-peak local and national calls. For the same amount - €30 per month, you can get the same off-peak calls and broadband from Sky.
Key 4: Bundling phone and broadband will net you the best deals.
Price examples – basic:
The following price examples are the four best for landline (inc off-peak calls) and broadband at a basic or entry level.
However, they are not actually directly comparable as speed and usage caps vary. This is a problem that consumers have in making comparisons accross this sector and why you need to look not only at price but also at speeds and usage caps and know what you need in that regard. All below (apart from Vodafone) are for 12 month contracts.
Sky - €360 for the year (€30 per month)
Off-peak local and national calls, speed up to 24MB, usage capped at 2GB.
Vodafone - €360 for the year (€20 for first six months, €40 after)
Off-peak local and national calls, speed up to 24MB, usage capped at 40GB.
*However, this is a 24 month contract so will €480 in year two.
UPC - €402 for the year (€25 for first six months and €42 for following six)
Off-peak local and national calls, speed up to 50MB, unlimited usage.
Eircom - €420 for the year (€30 for first six months, €45 thereafter)
Off peak local and national calls, speed up to 8MB, usage capped at 10GB.
(If you want higher speeds the best at the moment is Sky at speeds up to 24MB download speed, unlimited usage, off-peaks phone for €480 per year (€40 per month).
Bear in mind also that even if the advertised speed you buy is ‘up to’ 24MB for example, the average download speed you’ll get is somewhere between 5MB and 10MB, and there is no point in paying for extra if you can’t avail of it. In other words, the download speeds advertised may not even be relevant to you.
Price examples – Broadband (wireless / satelite)
Maybe you live in an area where you don’t have access to cable broadband and your landline cannot support DSL.
Here are some price examples for basic broadband only packages. Note that some of these providers offer bundles deals too (including phone).
Remember if wireless or satelite the download speeds may vary due to weather conditions. In addition there tends to be a set-up or installation charge with this type of product.
Qsat - €34.99 per month, 6GB usage, €149 installation fee. (satellite)
Ripplecom - €34.99 per month, 20BG usage allowance, up tp 2GB download speed, €149 installation fee. (wireless)
Onwave - €39.95 per month, 10GB usage allowance, up to 20GB download speeds. €229 set up fee. (satellite)
Digiweb - €39.95 per month, 10GB usage, up to 20MB download speed, €249 set up fee. (satellite)
Bundles with phone (but without landline):
Digiweb: €29.95 per month – off-peak calls, 5MB download, 30BG usage cap, €29.95 set up.
Imagine – phone and broadband for €25 per month – anytime calls, up to 3MB download speed. €100 connection fee.
Net1 – phone and broadband €35 per month – pay as you go calls, 5MB download spees, €149 installation.
There are far more bundles and offerings available than I can mention here, so you need help.
Go to callcosts.ie (Commission for Communication Regulation) for interactive comparisons.
Also go to Bonkers.ie for intercative price comparisons based on your data (including phone check re availability in your area) and useful blogs on related topics, changes in prices / offers etc.
One crucial piece of advice:
If you are thinking of switching provider DO NOT leave your current one mid contract, as you’ll still have to pay the monthly charge up until the contract ends.