Weekly Roundup: Mobile, Broadband & Energy News 21/01/19

Here’s a roundup of some of last week’s key industry news stories:

TalkTalk Customers Confused Over TV Charge

A new monthly £4 ‘Access Charge’ has been added to the bills of TalkTalk customers, creating anger and confusion among their subscribers.

The charge works as a hardware rental fee for customers who use the company’s YouView set-top boxes. It automatically applies to anyone who uses TalkTalk’s premium TV Boosts via their box. However, customers have been complaining that the charge has been applied to them even though they don’t have access to the premium plans. Essentially, customers are being charged just to have access to the box itself.

Customers who have downgraded from TalkTalk TV to Freeview are also being charged, although TalkTalk have suggested these customers can opt-out of the payment. A spokesperson for TalkTalk said: “You do not have to pay the TV Access Fee, if you do not specifically use any of the TalkTalk TV services or boosts you can request this fee is not applied.”

The broadband provider has defended the introduction of the fee, claiming that it is necessary in order for them to introduce new features and improvements to their TV service. A member of the company’s support team said: “In an ever changing and expanding marketplace we must strive to provide the best customer service, with the best selection of services possible to our customers, so they have a great selection of choice at great value. Sometimes these things are necessary.”

 

Germany Considering Ban on Huawei

The German government are considering ways to block Huawei products from accessing their new 5G network.

Countries around the world have been trying to introduce measures to block the Chinese firm from using the networks due to security concerns. The United States, Australia and New Zealand have already blocked their own firms from using Huawei to provide the new technology. The UK and Canada are also considering action against the under-fire company.

Huawei, one of the world’s largest producers of telecommunications equipment, has been criticised recently over fears their technology is being used for Chinese espionage. The firm has fiercely denied the claims. A statement from the company said they see “no rational reason why it should be excluded from building 5G infrastructure in Germany, or indeed in any country in the world.”

The move from Berlin marks a turnaround in the country’s approach to Huawei, as they had previously been more sceptical of the US’s claim that the technology giant has links to the Chinese government.

The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy in Germany told CNBC: “The security of the future 5G network is of high relevance to the Federal Government. The Federal Government will be guided by this in connection with the establishment of a future 5G network.”

 

66 Energy Deals Still Cost More than Price Cap

There are still 66 energy deals on the UK market with average annual costs that exceed the government’s price cap introduced this month.

According to new research published by auto-switching service Look After My Bills, each of the ‘big six’ energy companies are offering a deal higher than the cap. Industry regulator Ofgem introduced the cap, which is set at £1,137 a year, to ensure consumers were getting a fair deal. It only came into effect at the beginning of January.

However, the cap only applies to standard variable tariffs, meaning energy firms have been able to exploit this loophole by locking customers into expensive fixed-rate tariffs with costly exit fees.

One fixed-rate deal offered by independent supplier Ebico costs, based on average usage,  £1,312.29 a year – £175 higher than the cap. The most expensive tariff offered by one of the ‘big six’ firms is from British Gas, costing £1,255 a year.

“The price cap was a welcome step to protecting consumers on extortionate standard tariffs,” said Lily Green, head of research at Look After My Bills. “Fixed deals are often seen as the safe option. But locking people into a fixed deal hundreds of pounds pricier than the cap, with a hefty exit fee is a pretty shameless move by suppliers.”

 

Ovo Energy Takes On 235,000 Customers from Economy Energy 

Ofgem has appointed Ovo Energy to take on Economy Energy’s 235,000 customers after the firm collapsed earlier this month.

The regulator has reassured the failed company’s customers that their credit balances will be honoured, and any money owed to them will be paid in full. Customers will be automatically moved onto Ovo Energy’s standard variable tariff – ‘Simpler Energy’ – and will see their current tariffs end.

Economy Energy became the ninth UK energy firm to cease trading in the last year. It was banned from taking on any new customers just a week before its closure, due to a high number of complaints about their customer service.

“I am pleased to announce we have appointed Ovo Energy, which will offer Economy Energy’s customers a competitive tariff for their energy,” said Phillipa Pickford, director for future retail markets at Ofgem. “Their credit balances will be honoured and their energy supply will continue as normal. Ovo Energy has also agreed to absorb the costs of taking on these customers and outstanding credit balances, which means the extra costs will not fall on the industry or households.”

Ovo Energy have urged people to not switch suppliers until they have been contacted. Once this happens, they should be free to compare the market and find a cheaper deal.

 

EE Revealed as UK’s Fastest 4G Network 

A recent study by data analysis company Tutela found that EE was the fastest mobile broadband network for 4G services in the UK over the final quarter of 2018.

The research revealed that EE came on top for overall speed and latency, ahead of rivals Vodafone, O2 and 3 UK. EE had the highest average download speeds of 24.18Mbps and had an improved average upload speed of 10.89Mbps. All four mobile networks were shown to have made improvements since the last report in September 2018. EE’s latency speed also improved, from 33 milliseconds down to 22 milliseconds.

Vodafone ranked second on the list with average download speeds of 18Mbps and upload speeds of 8.9Mbps. Next on the list was O2, who recorded download speeds of 13.53Mbps and upload speeds 7.05Mbps. The worst-performing network was revealed to be 3 UK. Their average download speeds were just 9.74Mbps, and their upload speeds were 6.45Mbps.

EE currently have an advantage over their rivals with wider geographic 4G coverage and more spectrum bands than their competitors. A reason for the poorer performance of Three UK’s network could be down to their ‘all you can eat’ data plans, which are more affordable and enticing to customers but cause congestion on their data capacity. However, with the introduction of 5G networks, Three UK are expected to improve their performances after purchasing contiguous spectrum bands.

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