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I switched to cable originally when a BT engineer accidentally disconnected my line whilst connecting a new customer across the road - I was actually on the phone when it happened and saw the engineer at the top of the telegraph pole. I used my mobile to contact BT, expecting the engineer to be instructed to fix the problem there and then, but no, it took them an unbelievable 8 days to reconnect me. So when I received a leaflet telling me I could have NYNEX, which would cost me less, I had no hesitation in switching.
That was 10 years ago.
-o- Company information -o-
A number of legacy cable companies were awarded franchises across the UK and, following various mergers and acquisitions, now operate as ntl:home. My own experience is limited to ntl:home north west, originally NYNEX, then Cable & Wireless, and although line rental and tariff charges are consistent across the country, you may find that one region is running a different campaign offering, for instance, free installation. Service levels may also vary considerably as, since decentralising most of the business last year, ntl:home now operates as 6 separate organisations within 6 different regions, each with their own call centres.
-o- Products and standard charges -o-
ntl:home offer broadband, dial-up internet and television services as well, but this opinion is centred on telephony - if youíre interested you can go to the appropriate categories on Ciao for information on other services.
- A telephone line costs £9.50 a month - if you opt for a TV package (as I do) the telephone subscription charge is included - A second line costs an additional £5.00 per month - Installation is normally £75.00, but there are loads of offers of free or reduced price install - Up to 2 additional extensions can be connected for £20.00 (BT have just quoted me an astonishing £91.66 for 2 extra sockets) - To retain an existing BT number costs £20.00, but again there are frequent offers where this charge is not applied - Moving service to a new address costs £50.00, although in my experience refusal to pay this has resulted in the charge being waived
Call features, such as Call Barring, Call Divert and Caller Display, cost £1.00 each, or £3.00 if you want everything. I donít actually have any of these as I donít feel I need them. I have had Voicemail in the past but find this less useful than a digital answer phone which allows me to screen calls if I wish, and obviates a real need for caller display.
I have a fully itemised bill each month for which Iím charged £1.00 - I was slightly disappointed when this additional cost was introduced last year but it is still reasonable and I donít pay any other bills unless they are fully detailed so I feel this is an essential extra.
I pay for my broadband, TV and telephone package by direct debit, and save myself a further £2.00 monthly surcharge.
-o- Tariff -o-
To compare the call charges is really an individual thing and the benefits will vary depending on your specific call patterns - you may make regular international calls whereas most of my calls are local. You can view comprehensive tariff details on the website and consider a variety of telephone packages ranging from the basic Ď3-2-1 Standardí to ĎTalk Unlimited 24í which for £25.00 per month includes line rental, all UK landline calls, 24/7, up to 60 mins per call. Alternatively you can log on to the u-switch website and look at other options which may suit your needs and save you money.
I have Ď3-2-1 Standardí which means I pay a 5p connection charge for every call I make, plus 3p, 2p and 1p per minute for daytime, evening and weekend calls respectively, whether local or national. However, the big bonus for me is that most of my friends and family locally are also subscribers, so my evening and weekend calls to them are FREE - yes thatís right, I only pay the 5p connection charge for a daily hour of hands free chit chat with my mum whilst Iím cooking dinner.
-o- Installation -o-
I remember my first install nearly a decade ago - a team of 3 arrived to complete the job within the promised timescale and I was pleased and surprised when they thoroughly cleaned up after themselves.
Arranging to transfer the services each time I moved (4 times) was pretty straightforward until I bought the house Iím in now which was the only occasion I came up against the issue of the address already having services connected. I donít know if itís still the case but at the time they were unable to schedule a connection date for me until the present occupier had arranged disconnection - and the difficulty was that the person I bought this house from was pretty slow to sort things out at their end. This resulted in my moving in without a phone for a couple of days.
When the engineers came to install the extra line and other services at this property I was pleased to find that my message about the thickness of the walls (up to 18 inches) had got through and theyíd brought extra long drill bits and allowed plenty of time. They arrived in the allocated time slot, finished the job satisfactorily and cleaned up before they left. The engineer tuning in the set top box in my sitting room even managed to maintain his sense of humour when, to my great shame, my dog climbed on his back and attempted to Ö well, you can guess canít you?!
-o- Quality of service -o-
I have never experienced a poor quality call connection or interruption of service, although my second line was disconnected for no apparent reason last year, which meant that I had to temporarily switch to the main line to use my dial up internet service. I reported the problem and the line was reconnected within 24 hours, with an engineer even calling at the house to let me know this had been done.
-o- Customer service and billing -o-
Prior to decentralisation, if I telephoned Customer Services or Faults from here in Cheshire, I might have found myself speaking to someone in Yorkshire or Brighton. These days, my call is directed into the Manchester contact centre when I follow the automated call handling prompts and enter my telephone number - any benefits of this change are not evident to me, the only real difference is that I am more likely to speak to someone with a Manchester accent.
An improvement I have noticed is a marked reduction in handoffs over the years; the customer service advisers now seem to be trained on more processes so they donĎt need to pass me on to someone else to handle my enquiry. This means that Iím on the phone to them for a much shorter period of time.
On the downside, the queues when ringing the call centre are still frustratingly long and I hate the call handling system with a passion - especially when Iím forced to listen to promotions for things like the sports channels, which I already have. Iíve learned to avoid calling on Mondays and anytime after 4.30 pm as these seem to be the busiest periods.
And donít even think about sending them an e-mail - considering this is a Ďcomplete communicationsí company Iím astonished that their e-mail service appears to be unsupported. I mailed them a non-urgent query 5 months ago and Iíve forwarded it with a follow up every month and Iím still awaiting a reply!
Iíve had a small number of billing errors over the years, but none of these have been significant (less than a fiver) and an adjustment has been reflected in the following monthís bill which is good enough for me. In fact billing is an area which has improved a lot since the NYNEX days when you needed to retain the services of an accountant to even begin to understand what you were being charged for.
There is a facility for viewing bills on-line but this isnít available in all areas as yet, including mine, so I canít comment on how useful it is but I would definitely utilise this service if I could.
-o- How to order -o-
You need to live in an ntl:home franchise area to be able to get service - if youíre not sure you can visit the website and enter your post code to check whether services are available in your area and even then you may find that the cable does not run past your property or that there is insufficient capacity on the network.
If you can have service and decide to go ahead, you can choose to buy on-line at www.ntl.com/sales, over the telephone on 0800 052 3663, or from a direct sales person in your own home; I have always placed my order successfully over the phone and received confirmation in the post a few days later.
Thereís a really good BOGOF promotion at the moment - buy 'Talk Unlimited 24' for £25 per month and you can get the basic digital TV service (30 channels) free for 12 months as well as free installation and no charge for keeping your existing phone number.
-o- Overall -o-
Reading through some of the other opinions on Ciao I wonder if I've been very fortunate; I have been a customer for nearly 10 years now and have never experienced a major problem. As a stand alone service, the cost benefits of an ntl:home phone service are good, but as a combined package, with TV and broadband, the products really are great value, and I find it so much more convenient to deal with a single supplier for all my home communications needs.
Recommended - but with some reservations regarding customer service.
Good read........ and you have definately been lucky not to have so many problems !
mattshaw4 01.04.2004 11:42
Great review! I am getting NTL broadband in the very near future, but was unsure whether to keep my BT line for the phone or transfer it all to NTL. You helped make my mind up & so am going to go all in for NTL! Cheers :-)