To change broadband provider or not?

I’ve recently been thinking about whether or not to change my broadband ADSL provider. Mainly to increase speed, but also to maybe save a bit of money. As a tech-geek I am more interested in the former than the latter 😉

I’ve been a customer of Pipex for five years now, and have never had a problem with them. I’ve gone from a 512Kb connection up to my current speed of 2Mb. I’ve always chosen to stay with their uncapped service, not because I am a heavy user (I don’t use P2P at all for instance) but because I use the connection a lot for work and because I like to know that I can be a heavy user if I want to be 😉 I currently pay £23.99 per month.

For those who might not be familiar with the UK broadband market, there has been a bit of a price war breaking out between providers recently. This kicked off with Carphone Warehouse offering to supply free broadband if you subscribed to their Talk Talk phone call plan. Companies like Orange and Sky have followed suit, whilst traditional broadband providers like BT and Pipex have repackaged their offerings to remain competitive. All this is made possible by the concept of Local Loop Unbundling (LLU.) Until recently, ADSL providers had to buy the ADSL “product” (e.g. 2Mb ADSL or up to 8Mb ADSL Max) from BT Wholesale. The crucial factor here is that BT owned all the equipment in the exchange and the vital copper cable leading into your house. Thus, all the providers supplied products with their own markup on the price they had to pay BT. LLU allows providers to put their own equipment into the exchange and effectively take over the running of your phone line, avoiding the need to pay BT anything.

I therefore had a number of potential options open to me if I wanted to move providers:

  • Firstly, I could get IBM to pay for my connection. This would have the obvious advantage of meaning I pay nothing, and would currently mean I get a 2Mb uncapped connection (provided by BT) which is exactly as I currently have. I’ve always resisted going this route however as I prefer to be free to do what I want with my connection. Not that there are any technical restrictions to what I can do, but I’d feel like I should be responsible on it. It also brings into question use of the connection by the other member of the household. Finally, I’d be tied into only being able to move up to higher speeds as and when all users are migrated.
  • As I pay over £30 per month for my mobile phone from Orange, I qualify for their free broadband offer. This would be an up to 8Mb connection with a 2GB limit and would cost me nothing. However to get an uncapped connection I’d need to pay £10 month on top of my mobile phone contact. This would still save me £13.99 month. The downsides here are that I’ve heard rumours about delays in getting the service provisioned due to supply problems, and I’d be moving to a service which I’d had no previous experience with in terms of stability and support.
  • Go to another traditional broadband provider. I could consider a move to BT, Zen or any number of other providers. The move should be pretty painless and I could probably get a cheaper price than Pipex. The downsides are again moving to a provider who might not give me the same level of service and support.

I phoned up Orange and spoke to a nice chap who confirmed I’d only have to pay £10 more per month to get and uncapped service. However when he checked my phone no, it came up as being not available for broadband for some reason. I then tried on the BT website and the same thing happened. I then remembered an email from Pipex which I’d deleted a week or so ago. It mentioned an outage due to engineering work, but gave little detail. After checking out the excellent Sam Knows site, the penny dropped – I’d been LLU’d by Pipex! A quick call to Pipex confirmed this, and also that I could change to an up to 8Mb uncapped connection for just £1 per month extra. It did mean a new 12 month contract, but that’s no problem. It also means a faster upload speed which will be very useful for work and things like flickr. I don’t save any money, but I do get to stay with a service I trust and know performs.

Finally, being LLU’d means that I am in pole position to be able to use any ADSL2+ products once Pipex launch them, giving the potential of up to 24Mb connection speeds.

4 thoughts on “To change broadband provider or not?

  1. I’ve been in exactly the same position as you where it came to considering alternative suppliers, and I’m also a long-term Pipex customer like yourself. I’ll have to have a look and find out when I can get the Max connection where I am. I don’t remember seeing any emails from Pipex lately. I’ve never wanted to move to the work-provided deal (even though it would save me money) because I’d rather be in charge of my own service. My other option was cable, since NTL keep dropping leaflets on me every month, but I have heard such bad things about the service, and I seem to remember that it doesn’t play well with our VPN software.

  2. You should still be able to get the ADSL Max product (up to 8Mb download) without being LLU’d if the data for your exchange shows it is ADSL Max enabled.

    Being LLU’d will only really make a difference when the ISP decides to offer ADSL2+ products. So in fact, if you could get Max from Pipex whilst not being LLU’d you would actually get a better deal than me. Pipex have to pay BT nothing to supply my broadband now so are presumably making more profit on me. Maybe I should phone them up about that 😉

  3. Ah right. The ADSL checker at Sam Knows shows BT Wholesale ADSL Max is available. Last time I spoke to Pipex (about a month ago) they said there was no news on Max for my area. Maybe I should ping them again.

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