Internet Providers Announce 2021 Broadband Price Rises

A number of major UK internet service providers (ISPs) have announced above-inflation broadband price rises for 2021.

Virgin Media says an average customer will face a 4% rise this year – announcing that the increase is part of a plan to invest £1 billion in its network infrastructure.

BT, EE and Plusnet have also amended their terms of service, and are expected to publish above-inflation price rises over 4% shortly. Sky have already raised prices, with some customers seeing increases of up to 10%.

Ofcom figures suggest market rates for broadband have remained broadly consistent over the course of the last decade prior to 2020 – driven in part by more of the UK being brought on-stream under Openreach’s superfast fibre roll-out.

broadband price rise

Although network investment is likely to be welcomed, many customers will no doubt suspect ISPs are raising profits at a time that the UK is particularly dependent on home use of connectivity.

Where investment also supports fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollouts, the increase may also represent a regressive step – charging customers in less well-connected parts of the country with slower broadband to fund upgrades in already better-connected areas.

Approximately 41% of broadband customers are not in contract, and the best deals are gained by those who look for options rather than renewing automatically. New Ofcom rules mean that price rises from an ISP allow escape from contract terms, giving customers other options.

Contact Lineal – Placing your connectivity with a trusted IT provider can be both more organised, and sometimes better value. Contact us today!


UK Gigabit Voucher Scheme FAQs

Qualifying businesses in many rural parts of the UK are eligible for a Voucher worth up to £3,500 to help get new leased-line fibre broadband installed under the UK Gigabit Voucher scheme.

The Government recently urged SMEs to apply, with Digital Minister Matt Warman MP arguing the £70m pot is “still there for the taking.”

But what is the Gigabit voucher scheme, and how does it work?

 

How fast is gigabit?

Gigabit broadband is 1,000 megabits/per second (around twenty-times the download speed of a normal domestic FTTC connection) and unlike conventional broadband, supports a ‘symmetrical’ upload rate that is equally as fast as the download.

In most cases however, SMEs will deliberately opt for a more limited connection speed on a gigabit ‘bearer’ (eg: 200Mbit/s up and down) to keep costs manageable, while retaining the capacity and option of regrading up to a maximum of 1,000 Mbit/s at a later date if needed.

 

What does the voucher get used for?

Most connectivity providers charge an installation cost on new Leased Line installations – normally based on the length of fibre cabling that must be ‘dug in’ to connect the business. The voucher is a refund to help offset this upfront cost. Businesses must pay the ongoing monthly connectivity charges as normal, but the voucher is intended to help firms overcome the initial barrier-to-entry.

 

I’d like £3,500 please.

Quite! Although the the voucher is paid direct to your chosen supplier. Once your business has applied and been deemed eligible, your supplier will submit your voucher with your details when you place the initial order for your leased line. After your fibre is dug-in and connected, the scheme will check that your service is live before paying your supplier the due amount.

If your install is less than £3,500 you are likely to only be awarded the relevant cost, rather than the full amount. In most cases businesses will be signing a leased-line term with their provider for the ongoing cost of connectivity – normally between one and five years.

 

Can I use my voucher via Lineal?

Yes! We use Gamma Telecom Ltd for fibre leased-line connectivity, who are an approved supplier under the Gigabit Voucher Scheme.

 

Why is this funding being offered?

Successive Governments have reasoned that investing in better broadband is good for UK business growth, but the logistics of physically digging in fibre cabling is left to third-parties such as Openreach. Those providers insist ‘hard-to-reach’ properties are not economic to connect under the regional FTTC and FTTP broadband roll-outs because of the upfront cost of this installation work, or that gigabit fibre to the entire country is only achievable over the long term. For the best return on investment, the Government wants to prioritise upgrading businesses that already suffer slow speeds.

Gigabit fibre installations to commercial properties are also a capital project – the physical fibre, once ‘dug-in’ to a business premises, may end up being used for years to come by future businesses who take over the site, allowing more companies to benefit from widespread upgrades to the existing infrastructure.

 

What are other businesses doing?

To date around £90m worth of vouchers have been awarded so far, and around 29,000 connections have already gone live. The Government’s election pledge during 2019 was for gigabit fibre for the whole of the UK by 2025, a target which is widely expected to be missed.

This leaves rural businesses dependant on inclusion in their regional fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband roll-out as a stopgap, hoping to be included in an early tranche of Openreach’s future FTTP roll-out, or looking to fund the upgrade to a leased lined themselves.

 

Help! We really are out in the sticks!

If the cost of your install is still too large, there are other options: such as pooling your vouchers with neighbouring eligible businesses, accessing faster connections via 4G or point-to-point link. Speak to us to learn more.

 

How do I find out more?

You can learn more about eligibility and how to apply for your voucher via the UK Government’s Gigabit Voucher Scheme website here: https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/ or get in touch with Lineal for more information.


ISPs Lift Data Caps on Home Broadband

The UK’s biggest telecoms providers have agreed to remove data caps from Home broadband packages during the Coronavirus lockdown.

Although most UK home broadband packages now come with an ‘unlimited’ data allowance (subject to fair usage), many legacy products still enforce a data limit which may incur financial penalties if exceeded. Much like mobile data contracts, historically these were usually set at a specific monthly data usage, eg: 200GB.

The move follows discussions with the Government and telecoms regulator Ofcom, who are seeking to support vulnerable customers during the Coronavirus lockdown.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has also stated that the measure will be ‘effective immediately’ and help ‘people to stay connected whilst they stay at home.’

In particular, the BBC notes that many ISPs offer cut-price, limited broadband packages for those receiving benefits – although some limits on gaming, streaming and other high data-usage activities may remain in place for these packages.

Providers lifting data caps include BT (EE & Openreach), Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and KCOM.

 

For technology expertise and support, please contact Lineal today.


Gamma Roadshow 2020

We recently attended the 2020 Gamma Communications Roadshow at Stamford Bridge – hearing the latest business telecoms and technology trends from across the UK. But what do businesses need to be aware of?

 

Clock Ticking for ISDN

BT will officially turn off all ISDN services by 2025, with the ‘stop-sell’ order coming as early as 2023.

With UK businesses just getting used to putting ‘2020’ on paperwork, this is no longer a drill – if your phone system uses ISDN, your business needs to begin preparing to switch to a digital services such as SIP or better still, a hosted VOIP platform.

There are perhaps as many as 1.5 million ISDN channels still in use by businesses across the UK. Gulp.

 

Ultrafast Fibre Rollout Gathers Pace

Superfast broadband (‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ or FTTC) prices are falling all the time, but the big story of the decade is likely to be the steady roll-out of ultrafast ‘Fibre to the Premise’ to many more businesses – to around 40% availability over the next few years.

Salisbury is the first single-year rollout ‘test’ area trialling complete fibre infrastructure (booking a new copper line in the Salisbury area is likely to be rejected).

Interested in fibre for your area? Perhaps you should speak to your friendly neighbourhood IT provider…

 

Not all 5G is born equal

We’ve known for a while how the smallest of the UK’s four mobile networks (Three Mobile) is arguably in the best position to deliver data, although it’s now becoming clear Three has an enviable technical advantage over some of the other major providers – and is even using the cheeky marketing slogan: ‘If it’s Not Three, It’s Not Real 5G’.

The reserved spectrum range favours Three to such an extent that EE/BT, O2 and Vodafone have all submitted strongly worded complaints over preferential access. Gulp.

 

Microsoft Teams Telecoms Emerges

Among Gamma’s most exciting news was the announcement of a Direct Call Routing service for Microsoft Teams – which effectively plugs into the back of Teams and Microsoft’s ‘Phone System’ PBX add-on, to turn your Microsoft Teams software into a fully fledged business phone system.

teams phone

Until now Microsoft’s Teams platform has been a strong option for video/audio conferencing, screenshare, instant messaging and collaboration – but have always lacked the more robust business call-handling feature-set of true phone systems, or suffered from a shortage of physical handsets. With both of those challenges solved by Gamma and the Teams app available on a variety of devices, it’s easy to imagine Teams phones appearing on desks.

Direct Routing for Teams is expected from April 2020. The final pricing is likely to be somewhere in the region of between £15-25 a month per user (including Microsoft Office licensing) – finally unifying telecoms under the same single user account as Microsoft Office 365 hosted email, files storage, office apps and collaboration software. Watch this space.

 

For communications services and expertise, please contact our team today.


End Net Neutrality, rules FCC

Net Neutrality looks set to end in the USA, following a landmark 3-2 decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC.)

The ruling will permit American internet providers to cease treating all internet traffic equally, and permit the blocking or throttling of certain types of internet traffic or charging for access non-uniformly – providing the restrictions are released publicly.

Opponents of Net Neutrality fear the lifting of restrictions will pave the way for anti-competitive behavior in the US and ultimately around the world – with internet service providers (ISPs) deliberately impairing services provided by competitors to make their own offering appear superior. Imagine ISPs degrading each other’s parent-company video streaming services, and you get the picture.

This latest ruling u-turns on the 2015 decision to guard against anti-competitive practices, and will be politically controversial – passed strictly down party lines with the committee’s three Republicans, including Trump-appointed Chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai voting in favour, and two Democrats voting against.

Consumer protection has, if anything, become slightly stricter in the UK following recent Ofcom decisions, whilst across the pond, 2017 is expected to go down in internet history as a year of dramatic internet deregulation. Internet usage crosses national borders of course, with the international affect of the FCC’s decision being ours to speculate on.

The end of Net Neutrality won’t kill the internet, but it’s likely some intelligent individuals will be developing discretely advantageous ways for their own business interests to benefit financially from preferential treatment online, or profit from those who wish to do so.

Long term, any introduction of ‘toll-road’ style access is likely to act as a barrier to entry to newer technology companies, to the benefit of more established providers.


Compensation for Broadband faults, Ofcom rules

Communications regulator Ofcom has ruled that automatic compensation for broadband faults will be available to customers experiencing service faults.

Customers of BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen internet (roughly 90% of UK customers) will be able to claim £8 per day for disconnections not fixed after 2 days, £5 for delayed repairs, and £25 for scheduled engineer visits which do not happen.

Ofcom estimates automatic pay-outs could exceed £142m annually, considerably more than the estimated 15% of claims currently paid out by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) each year.

The new system has been designed to improve service delivery, encourage users to report problems, and incentivise ISPs to keep a tighter control of faults.

Customers will be expected to follow a complaints procedure to receive compensation – revised guidance will be published in advance of the changes coming into effect in 2019. Existing rules detailing what types of faults should currently be referred to your ISP are available here. 

As before, compensation is not expected to cover internal network or internet connection delivery problems at a property, with BT levelling charges on customers who request unnecessary engineer call-outs.

Broadband customers can learn more about their statutory rights on Ofcom’s website here.

Need IT Support? – call Lineal’s experienced team today.


Broadband speed advertising reviewed by Ofcom

A public consultation on broadband speed and delivery is being conducted by Ofcom until 10th November, as the regulator seeks to hold Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to account.

Ofcom currently requires ISPs to provide an estimated download speed the end user will receive in product advertising.

Providers typically advertise possible broadband speed with the phase ‘up to’, rather than guarantee a deliverable lesser service level (very difficult) although under new rules may be asked to express this as a form of average to more accurately reflect the broadband speeds experienced by the majority of customers.

The consultation is part of a trend in recent years for regulators to tighten up broadband speed advertising rules, and eliminate the more misleading claims sometimes used by ISPs to imply a better quality internet service – as Virgin Media found out to its cost, when a series of adverts featuring Jamaican Sprinter Usain Bolt and several unsubstantiated phrases such as “bye-bye to buffering” were blocked by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Subject to the findings of the consultation, new rules are expected to give consumers the right to terminate their broadband contracts without penalty should their provider not be able to guarantee the minimum standard of service on which the contract was sold.

Exactly what that ‘minimum standard’ should be in future hasn’t yet been made clear. Very few users will receive the perfect 80Mbps download speed theoretically granted to them from super-fast fibre in 80:20 enabled-areas, but to what extent the service will be degraded largely depends on copper-wired distance from the nearest fibre-enabled BT cabinet to each customer’s router.

Businesses seeking a required level of connectivity may opt for a dedicated leased line with higher data allowances – although these carry waiting periods for installation, and are not a cost-effective option for an individual domestic consumer.

Although device recorded internet speeds may indeed depend on a number of factors, users can perform a like-for-like test of both their upload and download speeds using Ookla’s internet speed-test app on Lineal’s website.

 

For connectivity advice and communications expertise: speak to Lineal today.


Gamma Roadshow 2017: Reporting Back

Lineal’s foreign correspondent this week travelled to London for the Gamma Roadshow 2017: where a host of Gamma’s most interesting new products and services were showcased to a capacity crowd at the Barbican.

Gamma’s extremely flexible cloud-based telecoms offering has been one of Lineal’s most popular new products, and has taken the wider business telecoms sector by storm: with more than a quarter of a million Gamma Horizon phones now in use across the UK.

As a Accredited Gamma Partner, we were most impressed with:

  • Special pricing for the educational and charity sectorskeeping Horizon phone systems competitive in sectors where cost-effectiveness is especially important.
  • Cloud compute – Gamma’s partnership with Amazon web services offers the chance for companies who had previously moved their PBX to the cloud to begin virtualising other server assets as well, where the limits of technical knowledge would have held many back. It’s early days for Gamma’s Cloud Compute, but expect this to begin making waves in the IT world.
  • New integrator options: the full list of CRM systems which integrate directly with ‘call-to-click’, shared contacts directories and more, is now exhaustive, with Gamma adding TAPI integration – it’s hard to imagine that Horizon won’t fit your existing software.
  • Converged – Gamma mobile enters the big leagues, with Gamma Sims that run a ‘roaming in the UK’ system named ‘Multinet’ and using the native dialler of the phone. Without the need for an App, this is true mobility, and your mobile really will be a true extension of your Gamma landline.
  • PCI Compliance – the extraordinary flexibility of Gamma Horizon phone systems had only been held back in more sensitive environments by it’s own call recording, which hadn’t been PCI compliant. New tools for PCI compliance change this, and opens up Gamma’s phone systems to payment centres for the first time.

The Gamma Roadshow is a chance for UK Gamma Partners to give feedback and receive news on Gamma’s latest developments – with this year’s roadshow, Gamma have clearly acted on that feedback and their voice, data, mobile and cloud computing platforms are stronger for it.

For communications expertise and support – contact Lineal today.


Lineal becomes Rural Broadband Voucher Scheme Approved Supplier

broadband voucher scheme

Lineal have officially become an Approved Supplier for the Government’s rural Broadband Voucher Scheme.

Eligible recipients who claim their Government Broadband voucher from Connecting Devon and Somerset by November 31st, can put the voucher towards installing a faster broadband solution from an alternate provider.

The scheme aims to provide an alternative for those in rural and other remote locations, who receive speeds of less than 2Mbps and are excluded from the Government’s fibre-optic broadband rollout, to access faster broadband.

broadband voucher scheme

Lineal’s experienced engineers can use a combination of the latest fixed wireless technology, much like that used in the Barnstaple Town Centre WiFi project, to provide more challenging locations with better connectivity. A typical installation, location permitting, costs £390 (+VAT), and includes a discrete antenna and router for your property or business. Once installed, faster Broadband from Lineal is available from £12 per month (+VAT.)

Those interested in the scheme must at least claim their vouchers by November 31st, by applying on Connecting Devon & Somerset’s website.

 

For Broadband and Infrastructure expertise, contact lineal today.

*Picture via Connecting Devon & Somerset