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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 21/09/18


Here are the top stories in the broadband, energy, and mobile industries, from the last week:

Quarter of Sky Broadband and Virgin Media Customers Often Paying Over £100 a Month

According to a new survey by Which?, the customer advice website, over a quarter of consumers using Sky or Virgin Media broadband and TV packages pay over £100 per month.  The toss-up, of course, is that those customers may well have access to a wider range of TV channels, such as the Sky range of Sports, Movies, etc., as well as Virgin’s superfast broadband.  However, the cost is quite high when compared to deals from other providers – for instance, over 85% of all customers with TalkTalk and Plusnet pay less than £50 a month, and only 13% of BT’s pay over £75.  52% of Virgin Media’s, and 62% of Sky’s pay over that figure.

A distinct advantage offered for the price of Virgin’s deal is their provision of 4K support and access to their superfast broadband network, easily the best of any of the major providers.

The report argued that many customers are not getting value from their broadband/phone/TV packages. Which? suggests that those paying over £100 who don’t think they’re getting value for money should think hard about changing providers, explaining that loyalty is not valued by companies, and switching can often save significant fees.

4 Million Overcharged for Mobile Handsets

Consumer help charity Citizens Advice has claimed that four million people signed up to three of the UK’s biggest mobile networks are still being charged for handsets that are already fully paid off.

Citizens Advice accused EE, Three, and Vodafone of charging “unacceptable” fees for handsets which are not included in a customer’s contract – pointing out that the only required monthly charges after a contract has expired are calls, texts, and data.  According to CA, the average customer in this situation will shell out £22 a month – and this can rise to nearly £50 for a top-of-the-market phone like a Samsung Galaxy or newer iPhone.  Normally, a contract that includes handset price in its monthly fee is set up so that the price of the physical phone is paid off by the end of the term, with only usage charged thereafter.  Unfortunately, a network provider continuing to charge for the price of the phone is technically not breaking the law – something that CA argues should be changed by the regulator, Ofcom.

Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice, said that the major providers should follow smaller firms in halting such practices: “Other companies have already stopped doing this so we’re looking for these three major providers to follow suit.”

She continued: “Consumers should check their phone bills to see if they can save money with a SIM-only contract or upgrade to a new phone.”

UK’s Wind Generation Capacity Reaches New Heights

The UK has broken the 20GW mark for wind power generation for the first time this September, following the connection of the world’s largest offshore wind farm to the National Grid.

The extension to Walney Facility off the coast of Cumbria was completed earlier this month.  The farm now spans an area equivalent to 20,000 football pitches, hosts 189 turbines, and can power over half a million homes.

Trade body RenewableUK has estimated the country’s wind capacity from both onshore and offshore farms at 20,128MW, which could power 14 million homes for a year.  The organisation is confident that the growth of wind power will continue, pointing out that 5GW capacity was installed in the first fourteen years of structured construction – and the same amount has been added to the Grid in the last two.  RenewableUK has set a target of 30GW worth of wind power capacity to be installed in the country by 2030.

There is currently controversy in the industry over the efficacy of onshore wind vs. offshore – the Government has ring-fenced investment for offshore facilities while locking onshore wind out, despite new research that suggests the latter would be significantly cheaper.  According to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, onshore wind can provide 1GW of capacity for a price up to £30 million less per year.  The UK Government has allowed onshore firms and facilities to bid for investment packages in the future, although not for current contracts put out to tender.

EE Announces Larger Allowances for Home Broadband Customers

Mobile operator EE has added new supersized broadband deals to its home internet options – including one contract that offers a monthly data allowance of 500 Gigabytes.

These plans, which are linked to their 4GEE Home Router, are either for 30 days on a rolling contract, or for a standard length of 18 months.  Users on rolling contracts will have to pay £100 for the router itself, which comes free on 18-month plans. The use of the 4GEE router means that the internet is not provided via cables as with other providers, but instead is from a pocket-sized 4G transmitter that acts as a WiFi hub.

Prices are as follows (monthly):

30GB - £35

100GB - £45

200GB - £60

300GB - £80

500GB - £100

Although the larger packages are extremely pricey, they may well represent value for money for certain demographics.  For instance, more isolated areas are unlikely to receive high quality cable broadband, if at all – so an in-property 4G connection may well be faster and make more financial sense – especially when Satellite-based internet could be several times more expensive.

EE has recently announced that they plan for their 4G coverage to extend to 95% of the UK’s land by December 2020, and they also intend to introduce new plans that come with an external antenna for extremely rural areas.

giffgaff Investigated by Ofcom Over Billing Errors

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has announced that it is investigating the mobile provider giffgaff after information was produced indicating that it may have accidentally been charging customers ‘misleading’ bills as far back as 2016.

The company is expected to have violated point 11.1 of Ofcom’s rules, which states that providers must accurately bill customers for their communications usage.  giffgaff, which is owned by O2, has admitted to the error, and provided the relevant information, which will be sifted through by the regulator until a deadline of 1st December 2018.

Ofcom’s statement said: “giffgaff has provided information indicating that it may have rendered bills that were inaccurate as a result of a billing error that arose from June 2016.  Ofcom has therefore decided to open an investigation that will examine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe giffgaff has failed to comply with its obligations under GC 11.”