Bundled Utility Services
The phrase 'bundled service' is a relatively new one to household in the United Kingdom. It's only in the last ten years or so that companies have begun to talk about bundles while they all fight for customers as computing and broadcasting merge together. So what's that got to do with telephones and what does it mean for the customer?
Data and Media ConvergenceThe digitisation over the last thirty years of telephones and broadcasting now means that any media, radio, television or people's voices, can go down a telephone wire or a wireless link. Already we’ve had satellite television and phones for some time, and radio, video and television over the internet is workable, now that broadband is widely available. Internet access over mobile phones is becoming easier and recently telephone calls over the internet (using services like Skype or Vonage) became simple and usable.
So now most of the companies that have a significant presence in one of these areas, telephones, mobiles, television or the internet, want to be able to offer all of them. This is the so-called 'quadruple-play', where a consumer can get all of these services from one place and it has led to satellite and cable TV companies offering mobiles and internet access, and phone companies beginning to offer television.
Different Bundle OfferingsThese are offered to customers as 'bundles'; packages where discount is given against one service if you take other services from them. An example that is very common at the moment is cheap broadband, but only if you take a landline telephone service from the same company.
To combat this, some of the mobile phone companies who can’t offer fixed line telephones are offering broadband with USB dongles that plug into a computer. This gives broadband over the mobile phone network at much cheaper rates than usual, but note that you'll need one device and one account per computer (unless you know what you are doing with computer networking).
What to Watch ForThe advent of bundles has had two effects on the ordinary householder looking for telephone services. Firstly it has increased the number of companies to choose form and secondly it has made it harder to work out the best deal. The main things to look for are the length of contract and the tempting offers that won’t actually save you any money.
Contracts with telephone services used to only be for a few months, or a quarter, but increasingly the companies offering telephone services as part of a bundle are tying customers into contracts that are twelve months or even eighteen months long, following the example of the mobile companies. This makes it even more important to check all the small print to make sure that what you are assigning up to is the best deal for you. Using a comparison website to look for the best deal will help you decide who to switch to but it will still be a complex affair.
Make sure that the deal offers what you need and that you are not paying extra for things that you don't want or won’t use. There's not much point paying over the odds for telephone services in order to getting 25Gb of broadband data allowance per month if you only have the computer on for half an hour a day. Similarly a deal that gives you broadband and free telephone calls for £10 per month isn’t that good if you're also paying £50 for satellite TV channels that you never watch.