PlusNet launches UK ‘bandwidth usage calculator’

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Nearly eight out of ten (78 per cent) broadband users have no idea how much of their monthly usage allowance they take up via their internet package, according to YouGov research undertaken for PlusNet.

More importantly, 27 per cent don’t know what their service limit is and so face being penalised by their Internet Service Providers for unwittingly exceeding the limits of their contracts. With the growing use of bandwidth-hungry technologies, such as YouTube and BBC iPlayer, the ISP is warning internet users could face unexpected bills for extra usage, or restrictions on their service as they fall foul of hidden ‘fair usage’ policies.

In response to the research findings, PlusNet has launched a Broadband Calculator, to help customers understand their downloading habits. Available at www.mybroadbandusage.co.uk, the Broadband Calculator lets surfers measure their own usage and ensure they are not just on the right package, but are avoiding costly charges for exceeding limits imposed by some ISPs. The site also has an interactive tool of high bandwidth applications advising on typical usage for streaming TV, online radio, general browsing or downloading music.

To reflect the changing nature of download activity, PlusNet has also increased the usage allowances on its Option 2 (up to 15GB from 8GB), Option 3 (increased to 30GB from 20GB) and Pro (up to 15GB from 10GB) packages. All package prices remain unchanged and overnight usage remains free of charge.

“Many customers now take it for granted that streaming music and video over their broadband connections just works,” explained Neil Armstrong. “But there’s a growing problem where customers are on the wrong package and have no idea if it’s suitable for them or not.”

“Using your broadband with no idea of your limit, or level of consumption, is like making calls on your mobile phone without checking your bill or even knowing what contract you’re signed up to,” added Armstrong. “Consumers don’t know what effect music and video is going to have on the quality of their broadband and the bills they might face. Our calculator is designed to stop that once and for all, ensuring consumers are absolutely clear and confident with the broadband choices they have made.”

 

  

Checkout the latest deals on PlusNet broadband here.

Quieter AOL and debt fears hit Carphone

Britain’s fiercely competitive broadband market gave Carphone Warehouse a bloody nose yesterday as the retailer, whose TalkTalk service revolutionised the high-speed internet sector with its “free” offering two years ago, revealed it won fewer new customers than expected over the past three months.
 
Britain’s fiercely competitive broadband market gave Carphone Warehouse a bloody nose yesterday as the retailer, whose TalkTalk service revolutionised the high-speed internet sector with its “free” offering two years ago, revealed it won fewer new customers than expected over the past three months.
 
Shares in the FTSE 100 company, Britain’s third-largest internet service provider after BT and Virgin Media, dropped 13%, wiping £325m off the value of the business, as it admitted it gained only 109,000 new broadband users over the last quarter compared with City forecasts of about 128,000.
 
City analysts also fretted about the company’s burgeoning debt amid fears that a slowdown in consumer spending could hit sales. Carphone Warehouse admitted its store opening programme for this year will be “more measured” owing to “the softer economic environment”.
 
But chief executive Charles Dunstone dismissed the impression that the company is battening down the hatches in the face of a possible recession, saying: “that is not how we feel”.
 
Carphone Warehouse, which snapped up rival internet service provider AOL in October 2006, now has 2.7 million broadband users across TalkTalk and AOL, and Dunstone said he was “quite relaxed” about adding just 109,000 new users.
 
“TalkTalk was very strong,” he said. “AOL was possibly a little quieter than in the quarter before, but when you have 2.7 million customers whether you get 118,000 or 109,000 more does not make much difference.”
 
He said the figures will certainly not spur him into an early bid for rival ISP Tiscali, whose Italian owners have hired investment bankers to explore a potential sale. “We will look at Tiscali but with a lot of financial rigour,” he said. Buying out Tiscali would make Carphone Warehouse Britain’s largest ISP.
 
Since it launched its “free” broadband offering, Carphone Warehouse has been putting its equipment into BT’s network of local telephone exchanges, renting BT’s copper wires and plugging them directly into its own network – a process known as local loop unbundling. This migration of customers greatly increases TalkTalk’s profitability. Of its “free” broadband users, only 8,000 remain to be migrated onto Carphone Warehouse’s own network.
 
But new BT boss Ian Livingston has made it plain he wants to increase the cost of local loop unbundling and regulator Ofcom is expected to open a review of the issue shortly. Dunstone made it plain that he will “fight very, very hard” against any proposals that would increase prices.
 
The coming year will see Carphone Warehouse give greater autonomy to its retailing and telecoms businesses, which will allow TalkTalk to offer new services without preventing Carphone Warehouse’s high-street stores from selling broadband services from other providers.
 
Carphone Warehouse said yesterday that its core mobile phone retailing business sold 2.7 million mobile phone connections over the three months to end March, up 12% on the last quarter. But sales to customers willing to take out long-term contracts were slightly weaker than analysts had hoped.
 
“The market for mobile phones, in the sense of traditional handsets, is pretty flat,” said Dunstone, but there is strong growth in sales of “smartphones”, which play music and access the internet, and mobile broadband modems for laptops.
 
Carphone Warehouse hopes to boost take-up of its AOL broadband service by providing customers with free laptops. Buying in the equipment has led to a short-term increase in costs. The weakness of sterling against some European currencies has also led to an increase in finance costs. The cost of paying for its rising debts has dented Carphone Warehouse’s profits. The company said yesterday it expects profits for the year to end March 2008 to be between £215m and £220m, slightly lower than the City’s current projections.