Advantages Improved customer service, always on connection, connection speeds and therefore cost can be varied
Disadvantages Can't access certain work based websites, slow upload speeds
Before I start on this review, I must apologise to some Ciao members and probably many others. I have always said that I would rather ‘stick pins in my eyes’ before returning to NTL, well, I couldn’t find any pins.Despite my personal experiences, my Masters research showed there was minimal difference in the service provided by BT and NTL. Having surveyed nearly 700 people, this was a reasonable indication. I had also heard rumours from friends and colleagues that their customer services department had started to get their act together. So, with a house move on the cards, to a property with NTL installed, I thought I would give them the opportunity to impress me, and that’s exactly what they did.
While this op is about their broadband provision, I shall give you a brief outline of what finally swayed me.For those who don’t know, NTL offer various Broadband options for residential customers, namely:
• 156K download speed and 64K upload speed for £17.99 a month
For someone who had already been enjoying 576K download for three years this was a definite no-no, although for an equivalent price to most Anytime dial-up providers, it could be of interest to those on limited budgets.
• 600K download speed and 128K upload speed for £24.99 a month
A comparable download speed with my old Virgin and BT accounts, but half their upload speed of 256K, I used to get frustrated before, so wasn’t too swayed.
• 1Mb download speed and 256K upload speed for £34.99 a month
Now this was more like it, and it was even £5 cheaper than BT was when it started, definitely had to consider this as my only option.
NTL 600K and 1MB customers get three months free access to Broadband Plus which gives you access to a whole host of premium content from companies such as Tweenies and Encyclopedia Britannica. After the trial period it costs £3.99 a month.Having researched this and established my needs, the next step was to contact NTL and discuss what else was on offer. It was at this point I discovered that number portability has become a reality providing you are moving to a property on the same telephone exchange as your old house. And yes, they were prepared to waive the installation charges for me as a previous customer, so what else?
What they offered me was a telephone line with my old telephone number, free local and national telephone calls 24/7, 30 digital TV channels and 1MB Broadband for £58 a month. This included a £10 discount for the Broadband for the first year, they also told me the Broadband service can be upgraded / downgraded to save money while away on holiday, and the £10 discount would still apply.I was swayed and the decision made. You should be aware that if you decide to take the number transfer with NTL, there is usually a £20 charge. You will be given a temporary number while the transfer takes place and your old line must remain active until this is done.
I must say that I was impressed with the helpfulness and of the person I dealt with in Glasgow. In fact, I spoke to the same person more than once, a vast improvement on previous experiences.The necessary pin numbers and paperwork were sent to my new house well before I moved in, so everything was ready to go.
Contrary to what anyone might tell you, if you are in an NTL enabled area, you can have broadband installed without the TV or phone, or the phone installed without taking broadband or TV. You cannot, however, have digital TV installed without the phone, cute, don’t you think? Of course, you can have all three.NTL’s Broadband is provided through cables rather than ADSL, and depending on who you listen to, is more reliable. With DSL your maximum connection speed may depend on your distance from your exchange, with cable, I believe, if it is there, it’s there.
I tried to establish what the minimum computer specs were for having NTL Broadband, but discovered that NTL actually provide a downloadable checking package that will establish whether your PC is up to the job.There is also webspace provided, I have tried to find limits on webspace and programming languages to no avail, but your web address would go something like this:
• http://homepage.ntlworld.com/Your E-Mail nameINSTALLATION
The date was finally set for 6th February. NTL contacted me the day before to confirm they would be there between 12 and 5pm, guess what? They turned up at 11am, and thankfully, the psychopath we were buying from wasn’t in, but his slightly more reasonable wife sporting a black eye was. I popped along to the house, signed the paperwork, agreed the cable lengths and the deed was done very quickly, about half-hour in all. Although remember, the house was already wired.Fast-forward about 8 hours and it was time to connect!!!. This is one of the beauties or using a laptop as your main computer, as chaos may reign all around you in boxes, but you can still get on-line fairly easily and painlessly, although that’s the rumour.
The modem is connected for you, and plugged into the mains; you are issued with a CD containing step by step instructions on how to set it all up. I was good with technology; this would be straightforward wouldn’t it? WRONG!HOW DOES IT CONNECT?
I dutifully contacted the Broadband support centre and spoke to a very nice helpful young man, who tried to persuade me that I should connect using Ethernet as it was faster than USB. When I explained about how I use my laptop, he agreed that USB was probably a safer option. He stayed on the line with me for about ¾ hour as we got everything up and running. There is a short time delay before you can start surfing at the new superspeed, and there was no way I was letting him go until it was sorted. I had just been assigned a group of 40 new students and didn’t want to desert them before I started.I even discovered during this conversation that my old e-mail address from when I closed my account nearly three years ago was still active, and that it would automatically be allocated to me. This was as well as 9 e-mail addresses to placate the ever confused members of my family who never knew where they were from one day to the next with me having changed suppliers 3 times in a year.
Finally, I managed to get on-line, and was surfing at super speeds, so was it worth the extra £10 I wasn’t paying? The answer to this has to be YES and NO.
I generally use Outlook Express, and tend to find that my e-mails are downloaded before OE has even launched, so there is no doubt it is faster than my old Virgin account on downloads. When I download updates for my virus scanner and other software, the typical download speed ranges between 128 – 156K a second, a vast improvement on the 40K I got with BT Openworld and Virgin, so a good start.NTL actively encourage home networking, and their website contains extensive information and instructions on how to do this both wired and wireless. They also have fixed up special deals for their customers through Actiontec Home Networking and Linksys.
Visit www.ntlworld.com/help/services/homenetworking.html for more information. I have successfully wired the two main PC’s with few problems, although I am now seriously looking at wireless now the prices have dropped substantially.Unlike Virgin and BT, you are provided with a static IP address (used to be a £50 charge). There is also a package called Broadband Medic freely available from NTL that includes virus checkers and assistance to help you get the most out of your Broadband package. However, if I know NTL, if they see it working and popular there will soon be a charge. In the interest of my fellow Ciao’ers, I downloaded, 1.5MB took considerably less than 10 seconds, although it did crash my machine on install.
Basically, it will test your internet connectivity and give you step by step help instructions on everything from setting up new e-mail accounts to dealing with viruses.Anyone connecting to the Internet should make use of effective virus and firewall software, however, with a static IP address this becomes increasingly important, as technically, you become easier to hack.
I can download e-mails from any of my 7 personal and work e-mail accounts and can send out on four of them. Remember you will need to adjust your settings to be able to do this. Unsurprisingly, I can receive but no longer send e-mails from by BT Openworld account.This facility has enabled me not to have to worry about whether I have provided people with my new e-mail address.
I immediately discovered there was a problem. I can no longer access my work websites or web-mail accounts when connected using NTL. I initially resorted to using dial-up for this but have moved my work to one of my own websites. Now, I rely on my staff to perform certain tasks for me, as these days, I can literally be out of the office for weeks at a time.
In two months and 3 days, the connection has, so far, only failed me once (famous last words). Sometimes, it does become sluggish, but I usually find, that shutting down the computer and disconnecting the modem for 30 seconds (as advised by NTL) does sort out the problem.
NTL have been going through a difficult time of late, that has seen them restructuring massive debts unheard-of in the UK before. They have limited UK coverage, distinguishable even down to street and house number level so not everyone will be able to get it whether wanted or not. Sorry, not much I can do about this, and I doubt with their levels of debt, they will be conducting any more mass street installations in the near future.
They used to encourage teleworking as well, but when a colleague spoke to them recently because he was having problems with his connection, they tried to force him on to a business package, which is something of a cheek.
I am committed for a 12-month period whether I like it or not. I will continue to evaluate the product and service over the next 10 months before making any decisions about where I go next. That said, maybe by that time they will offer a heavily discounted 2MB connection and will persuade me to stay – see how fickle I am?IN GENERAL ABOUT NTL
He switched, and encountered identical problems to us because of a change in the install date. Cue the move day, and my parents encountered problems which saw mine pale into insignificance. At one point, we had BT, NTL and the removal men sitting outside the house with no way in, this is not good the day before Good Friday. We finally gained access at 5.15pm, 15 minutes after the arranged time-slot. NTL came up trumps. The supervisor arrived and got a gang of 10 men to the house who installed an NTL line into the flat, connected broadband, digital TV and 4 telephone extensions in record time. Less than 2 hours to do what could have been a day’s work. This put them way up in my estimations, and if this op was about them as a company, they would definitely have 5 stars, full marks NTL for cementing a new relationship.All in all, a mixed bag, the jury is still out on their broadband service, but nothing I can do for the time being.
Visit /www.ntl.com/index.html - where you can check your postcode for service availability or you can call them on: 0800 183 0123
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