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Being a student and running my own business, not to mention making a lot of calls, i decided to take the pressure off my mum (and make life easier for her at night by not being disturbed) by getting my own phone line. Unfortunately BT are the only provider of actual telephone lines in this area. Anyway, got the line installed and working, and I'm really glad to say I only made one call with them, a test call, in the time i was with them, which was a grand total of 17 days.
I decided to join TalkTalk, because of their unlimited free calls to the UK and 28 International destinations including the USA, as well as their broadband and the chance to have it upgraded whenever possible for no extra charge. The signup proces was easy enough, even for my sleep deprived self at 4am on a Saturday morning, and took about 5-10 minutes.
The transfer to TalkTalk went without a hitch, and 17 days later I was a member of their service. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about BT, who messed up my line rental charges, but that's a different story. I was thrilled at finally being able to make calls without having to watch the bill. I could, without concern, phone companies located in the US and Europe to enquire about their products (I'm a bit of a tech junkie), I could buy items that were not sold offline, and I could also speak to friends at any time of the day or night. I had my own broadband, which I could use for downloads and running my own servers on, thus not slowing down the line on which my mum uses her computer.
The phone service has been operational now for just over three months, and I have no complaints. TalkTalk were very sympathetic when I spoke with them about my bills, particularly as I have a visual impairment, and were happy to send me out bills in braille despite the fact that I was signed up for online billing. They also had no problems with my paying off my bill via credit card, as I didn't have enough in the account at the right time to honour the direct debit.
Now to the broadband. I had a signup date for that service of 21 August, which was about two months after I originally signed up. So i was pleasantly surprised when I got a letter notifying me that the service was 'live' three weeks before this date. I expected it to be the case that the service was 'going to be live' in a few days as with many other providers, but was pleasantly surprised to find it already done and waiting for me. Talk about good timing! the setup and install went without a hitch, despite several users reporting on online forums that the software would crash their computers (I installed on a laptop). The modem is small and fits nicely on my bedside table, and the cables provided are long enough to reach the telephone socket (none of those miserly 1 metre long ones that force you to use extensions and doublers). They even provide two microfilters, although I've made do with only one and there is no effect on call quality when using the phone at the same time.
The internet speed is fantastic. I'm supposed to be on a 2MB line, however I can have a file downloading at 250kb/s (kilobytes a second or 2000 kilobits), an online TV station streaming and someone uploading from me via FTP whilst still browsing the net and playing online games without any noticeable drop in speed. I haven't yet done a statistical test to get exact figures, but it is most definitely faster than the 2mbps my exchange is able to support.
They're online control panel that allows you to manage your e-mail is simple with regards to the interface, although the webmail itself looks similar to one of the offline e-mail programs and takes little learning to get used to. Another good feature I like is the ability to change both your connection and e-mail account password, which is something that you have to actually contact other providers to have done. Also, they offer IMAP e-mail. For anyone that regularly uses both a laptop and/or desktop with an offline e-mail program to check their mail, you'll agree with me that this is a godsend. The ability to synchronise your messages on both computers without the hassle of transferring them across via USB pen or other disk is just a real time-saver.
Another thing I must comment on is the reliability of the internet connection. I have not had it drop once in the nearly twomonths that I've been using it, and I find this to be extremely impressive.
So, overall my opinion of TalkTalk is a good one, but like everything else, there have to be at least a few downsides, although these are trivial.
Firstly, and most importantly is the fact that TalkTalk have vastly underestimated the demand for this service. Anyone offering free broadband and a super telephone package rolled into one has got to expect to be swamped by customers, especially with the vigorous marketing that they have undertaken (I mean, they sponsor practically half the programs on ITV), however TalkTalk have not adapted their resources for this with regard to their customer service. I feel somewhat sympathetic towards them - they've been hammered for having poor customer service, simply because people are impatient, expect to be served there and then, and because they simply do not realise that there are just very long queues that have to be dealt with on a first-come-first-served basis. Whenever I've spoken to TalkTalk, despite a wait time between 10 and 20 minutes, they have always been helpful. one case in point is when I phoned up to ask if toll-free numbers in the US were still tall-free when called through TalkTalk (with their 18418 prefix for international numbers (to get them free)), as I was getting a message, in an American accent, that claimed to the contrary. The attendant that took my call didn't know, but promptly passed me onto another department that could help. Unfortunately, it was nearly 8pm, and the main staff of that department had gone home for the day, which I can understand as it was on the managerial side, not the customer service side, but a receptionist took my name and number, and someone called me back the next day with an answer - and yes, the calls are still free - you can just ignore that message as it's a US exchange thing that comes into effect when it detects an international call coming into the US. the whole bills in braille issue is another example of their helpful customer service.
But another thing that must be noted is their £29.99 charge for the setup of the broadband. Now, for the service I've received I would say it is absolutely worth it, but for many this may prove to be a turn-off. Up to you.
Thirdly is the fact that they have recently raised their prices for calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers. They are still cheaper than BT, but you may wish to use a service such as saynoto0870 to get around this if you call these numbers often.
Fourth and last, their web control panel for the telephone service could do a with a couple of improvements. They don't offer listings of unbilled calls, which JustDialSaver did before they were acquired by TalkTalk, only the current cost, they don't offer bills for download, and you cannot subscribe or unsubscribe from calling features by yourself (you need to contact customer services).
These issues are, as said before, trivial at best, and if you can over look them, TalkTalk is a very good alternative to BT (if not the only one with regard to line rental), who offer a cheap and well-featured package, and whose only real fault is their underestimation of the demand such a service would garner. If they can work to improve this, cut waiting times for Customer Support and possibly improve the speed of responses to online support claims, it would gain top marks. for now, 8/10 is my opinion.
Extremely detailed and useful anedotal case. Sounds good to me. However, BT are desperately trying to put me off by saying that Talk Talk provide an unreliable broadband service, and that they have recently raised prices.
Most importantly, BT say that categorically will charge an extra £10 per month - that's on top of the £11+ £9.99 for Talk 3 International. BT say it's because our house is on an "unbundled" exchange. Is this true??? Anyone else have this problem?
newty1977 30.09.2006 14:46
I rent my line from NTL as part of a broadband and tv package and get a very good service at an fairly affordable rate. How much do TalkTalk charge?