Here’s a roundup of the week’s top broadband, mobile, and energy news:
Virgin Media Test New 8Gbps Superfast Broadband
Virgin Media has successfully tested 8Gbps broadband speeds in a handful of homes in Cambridgeshire.
The recent trial in the village of Papworth gave customers in eight homes superfast broadband speeds over 200 times the UK average of 46.2Mbps. The trial is expected to be extended to 50 homes over the next 6 months.
Such superfast speeds are unprecedented in the UK and are designed to keep the country’s fibre optic networks up to date with the ever-increasing demand for internet.
Richard Sinclair, executive director of connectivity at Virgin Media, said: “With the volume of our customers’ internet usage almost doubling every year, trials like this will ensure we have the capability to meet the demand of data-hungry services in the future – be that over cable or full fibre.”
8Gbps speeds will allow users to download 20GB UHD 4K films in just 20 seconds, video games of up to 100GB in under two minutes, and upload 3GB worth of photos in only 3 seconds. The new technology offers matching download and upload speeds, using an ethernet passive optical network.
Rail Passengers Still Not Satisfied with On-Board Internet
A recent report from Transport Focus has found that only 33% of rail passengers in the UK are satisfied with the reliability of their trains’ on-board internet connection.
The survey of 27,000 commuters revealed that passengers are only slightly more satisfied with their trains’ Wi-Fi connection compared to last year, when only 30% reported satisfaction. 36% said they were happy with the availability of Wi-Fi on trains.
Heathrow Express had by far the most satisfied customers, with 74% happy with their on-board internet. In contrast, Great Northern was at the bottom of the list, with only 20% of their customers satisfied.
The report also highlighted the difference in passenger requirements, whether they were travelling for work or for leisure. The survey asked passengers about general satisfaction levels, from delays to availability of seats.
“In effect, there is a trade-off between capacity and performance,” read the review. “For commuters there is a bigger sense of ‘just get me there’, perhaps recognising the reality that seats will not always be available at peak times. For leisure and business passengers there is more of an emphasis on the quality of the journey – meaning seats and the provision of Wi-Fi are higher priorities than the national average.”
Top Mobile and Broadband Providers Revealed
The best mobile phone network and broadband providers in the UK were revealed in the annual uSwitch.com Awards 2019.
For most of the awards, the winners and runners up were selected on a survey of over 11,000 customers across the country. A smaller number of awards were chosen by a panel of ‘expert judges’ from the technology sector. The award for Fastest Mobile Network, which went to EE, was based on analysis from OpenSignal.
Vodafone won the award for Broadband Provider of the Year, as well as scooping the award for Best Value Broadband Provider. Plusnet was named runner up in both categories. However, the Most Popular Broadband Provider award went to TalkTalk, with BT in second. Now TV was named TV Provider of the Year, followed by EE. Netflix one two awards, for Best TV Content and Best TV Streaming Service.
Sky received the most awards for mobile service, coming first place in three categories. They were Best Network for Customer Service, Best Pay Monthly Network and Best Value Pay Monthly. The Network of the Year award went to giffgaff, while EE was voted the Most Popular Mobile Network.
Chinese firm Huawei won the award for Mobile Manufacturer of the Year, with Samsung as runner up.
Ofgem to Raise Energy Price Cap in April
Millions of households in the UK are set to see their energy bills rise in April after the regulator Ofgem announced that it would be raising the price cap.
The cap, which was only introduced on January 1 this year, was designed to stop customers getting ripped off by energy companies. It is set on the unit price of gas and electricity, but only applies to customers who are on standard variable tariffs, which are the suppliers’ default tariffs and often their most costly. The price cap currently stands at £1,137 a year for typical usage. However, in April the limit will rise by £117 to £1,254 a year.
While the cap on default tariffs will affect around 11 million customers across the country, a further 4 million will be affected by a similar rise in the cap on prepayment meters. These meters are usually used by more vulnerable consumers who may have had trouble paying energy bills in the past. The price cap on prepayment meters been raised by £106 to £1,242 per year for the average user.
The price hikes have been blamed on rising wholesale costs, as well as increases in the costs of transportation and environmental commitments.
Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, said: “We can assure these customers that they remain protected from being overcharged for their energy and that these increases are only due to actual rises in energy costs, rather than excess charges from supplier profiteering.”
SSE Issues Profit Warning as Energy Subsidy Scheme is Suspended
Under the government’s Capacity Market scheme, financial incentives were offered to make sure power plants were able to provide emergency electricity at times of peak demand, ensuring the country doesn’t experience any black-outs. However, the European Court of Justice suspended the scheme in a landmark ruling last year, which the SSE claimed has cost them £60 million.
The energy supplier has also announced they lost 160,000 customers over the last three months of 2018, leaving them with less than 6 million customers. They had to cancel a merger with npower in November due to rising wholesale costs and increased competition in the market.
“Although our half-year results are slightly ahead of the position we set out in September, they fall short of what we hoped to achieve at the start of the year,” said Richard Gillingwater, the chairman of SSE. “This is disappointing and regrettable but important changes are now being made to the way SSE manages its exposure to energy commodities.
“The commercial terms of the proposed combination of SSE Energy Services and npower are the subject of ongoing discussions and creating a new independent energy supplier remains our objective.”