Tuesday 20 March 2018

Order superfast broadband - but hold the landline and save a bundle

As telecoms services go, the fixed line phone is fast becoming irrelevant in an age where it's all about the data
As telecoms services go, the fixed line phone is fast becoming irrelevant in an age where it's all about the data

John Cradden

Do you really need a landline phone in your home? If you don't, cutting the cord could save you up to €200 on your phone bills each year.

As telecoms services go, the fixed line phone is fast becoming irrelevant in an age where it's all about the data - whether that be text, images, video or voice.

According to the latest data from telecoms regulator ComReg, calls made on fixed line phones accounted for just 27pc of all voice call 'minutes' in the second quarter of 2014 compared with 73pc for mobiles.

The rate of landline decline has accelerated particularly sharply since 2011, when we spent around 1.75 billion minutes nattering away on landlines, falling to just over 1.1 billion last year.

However, broadband providers here appear to be resisting this changing reality as much as they can for fear that their profits will fall.

In fact, if you want a superfast 100Mbps broadband-only service without any added 'bundles' of services like the phone, TV or mobile, just three of the main providers - Vodafone, Eir, Pure Telecom - offer such a service. With most of the others, a landline phone service is included.

Even then, those who offer just broadband don't seem particularly keen to highlight it.

With Eir, for instance, its 100Mbps Fibre Solo product is not available to order online (you'll have to ring them) nor do they advertise it. It's also the most expensive of the three at €45 a month (€30 for the first four months), with Vodafone's 100MB Simply Broadband a good bit cheaper at €38 a month.

The cheapest is Pure Telecom's 100Mbps Purely Broadband at €36 a month, which was launched just a few months ago.

Compare these with the cost of these firms' superfast broadband and phone services and it certainly adds up; you would pay between €7 and €18 extra a month, although some of these packages will include free landline calls and even free calls to Irish mobiles.

For instance, Pure Telecom's Unlimited Fibre Bundle costs €47 a month (€39 for the first three months). Vodafone's Home Essentials is €45 month (€40 for the first six months), while Eir's Base Mobile costs €62 a month (€25 for the first four months).

Pure Telecom is actually the only firm that has banged the drum loudly in recent times for a standalone broadband service.

"Many customers don't have a landline and that's the idea behind Purely Broadband," said director Paul Connell. "It's an option that removes line rental charges for these customers and keeps high speed broadband with no download limits."

Connell believes there is a "degree of inertia" among telcos to offer broadband-only, but the firm got positive feedback from a two-month commercial trial that it conducted with 400 customers, and now believes it will win 10,000 customers for its broadband-only product by next year.

Eoin Clarke of price comparison site Switcher.ie isn't surprised that telcos are reluctant to offer - let alone promote - broadband-only.

"Broadband providers want to sign you up for a bundle, so they typically give greater discounts or introductory discounts for people signing up to them," said Clarke. "But over the longer term, the discounted bundle will work out more expensive than the standalone broadband."

As well as noting the rising numbers of consumers who have opted for broadband-only services over the last three or four years, recent research by Switcher.ie showed that 31pc of Irish adults make phone calls over the internet, with 38pc of them in the 16-24 age bracket using tools like Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, Viber and so on.

Opting for just standalone broadband and using just your mobile can certainly keep your costs down, and use Skype or Viber for international calls, said Clarke, who has a landline at home but admits that he rarely uses it, except to call his mum.

Eamonn Wallace of broadband lobby group Ireland Offline, says broadband bundles are "pretty pointless".

"In its time it was a great money spinner for the telcos, but I think it's now purely offered out of habit rather than offering any real value or possibly even any interest from consumers."

"In reality telcos now just provide data services, and this transition has been difficult for companies that were used to charging their customers exorbitant phone charges and the highest line rental in the EU, which has meant generally very high broadband charges for everybody as the telcos all try to match each other at about the same price point."

However, others say the landline will continue to find loyal users among older consumers and those who need high quality and reliable lines for voice calls.

"It's all about understanding what your needs are," said Clarke.

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