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*** UPDATED ITEM AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS OP ***
~ Introduction ~
To start of with, I would like to make clear that this is not a comparison between BT and Telewest/Blueyonder, I aim purely to discuss the services provided by Telewest and the experiences that I have had since being one of their customers.
As many of you will know Telewest Communications offer multi-channel TV, telephone and internet services primarily to home users but they do also cater for business users. They have also rapidly become BT's major competition in the telecommunications market. According to their website they currently provide services to 1.8 million UK households out of the 4.9 million homes that they are current able to service.
I have been a Telewest customer since they first laid their cable infrastructure in my home county (Kent). I remember the initial reason being that my brother and myself wanted an internet connection each, so aswell as the normal telephone line this would involve having 3 telephones lines which we certainly could not afford with BT, so we opted for Telewest instead. We then over a period of time decided to sign-up for their other service - the analogue cable TV service after ditching the sky service, not the modern sky package but the very old sky service when satellite dishes were often talked about as being an eye-sore, oh how public opinion has changed over the years - as I look out of my window there is barely a house that it is not adorned with one.
~ Telephone ~
The main incentive for having 3 Telewest telephone lines installed rather than BT was the fact that they offered half-price line rental on your first telephone line if you have 2 or more lines, so this was ideal for my brother and I to barter (more like beg, lol) with our parents.
So we signed up with Telewest about 7 years ago (1995) and for the first few months we paid at our local giro-bank because the olds didn't want all of the money coming directly out their account, this was a relatively quick and easy way of paying but the giro-bank then decided to charge a £1 fee for paying bills through them. So we were persuaded to start paying by Direct Debit (DD).
We filled out the DD form and posted it off so we were expecting the money to be taken out of the bank account at the end of the month, but instead we were presented with the same type of invoice to pay at the giro-bank, after a call to the customer services we were told that they had no record of our DD so we were sent another form which we completed and posted, another month goes by and we still get a giro-bank invoice and after another call to customer services they apologised and said that they will look into it, anyway to cut a long story short - this saga lasted for about four or five months until the DD was finalised.
A year went by with no problems at all, their customer base became larger in the area and more problems arose, this time our main telephone line appeared to be cut-off and after some scratching of the head we plumbed the telephone into one of our other lines, rang our number and some lady answers the phone, uhh... we discovered that the Telewest engineers had installed a telephone a few doors down the street from us and had actually wired the exchange box incorrectly, this took 2 days to correct.
After a couple of years with no problems, my brother moved out into his own place, we requested for his telephone line to be disconnected, so we had to wait the mandatory length of time (until the end of the month), which was fine and the line was disconnected, however we were still billed for some months after this and after "many" calls to customer services and a letter to the manager, the issue was resolved, all-be-it after we had threatened to cancel our subscription with them.
We have been with Telewest ever since and have not had any problems at all (touch wood), so well done Telewest for sorting yourselves out!
I will not bore you with the particulars of the call tariffs here but just in-case you are interested, I point you in the direction of the Telewest website http://www.telewest.co.uk, here you will find comprehensive information on both their 'Talk Unlimited' £25 a month and pay as you go tariffs.
~ TV ~
We decided to have the Cable TV package installed some 12 months after we got the telephone lines. At the time we had the old analogue Sky but Cable TV was much cheaper than Sky at the time and we also got a £2 a month discount because we were already subscribed to another Telewest service. It was also more attractive by removing the need to have an 'ugly' dish on the front of the house and it was packed with essentially most of the channels that we had on sky anyway apart from one or two channels.
We kept Cable TV until about 2 years ago when all of a sudden the digital TV era began, there were 3 candidates, i.) Sky Digital, ii) On Digital, iii) Active Digital (Telewest). We thought it was a good time switch to digital and decided on the third option (Active Digital) after seeing that other family members had digital TV already, admittedly none of them had Active Digital but it all looked rather exciting with all of these wonderful interactive features and a crystal clear picture!
We signed on the dotted line once more and we got our digital receiver the following week. I was watching the engineer tune the system in with awe willing him to hurry up so that I could get my hands on this space-aged looking remote control. The engineer only took about 10 minutes to install the system but it felt more like hours. I must have sat in front of the TV for about an hour surfing the channels and admiring the splendour of the picture quality. I then decided to look at the interactive features, i.e. e-mail, games, shopping.
The e-mail was good, a little difficult and long winded without a keyboard though, e-mails had to be written by using a virtual keyboard on the screen, using the arrow keys of the remote to traverse from key to key. The response time of the pages on the screen were very slow, it took ages to update the pages when scrolling through e-mails, but I guess that this is fairly common with most TV e-mail systems even by today’s standards. The games were actually quite good, there were quizzes, puzzles, and even a darts game and all were absolutely free to play. The shopping wasn't really my kind of thing, these were typically clothes and music shopping which you could purchase with your credit card through the TV. What was intriguing for me was that there was no phone line attached to the box unlike Sky; all information was sent and received through the coaxial RF (TV) cable.
All in all the TV was a fairly good package although I switched to Sky Digital about 12 months ago, primarily for the football but Sky do offer a lot more in terms of channel selections and interactive features. I will not digress though as this is best suited for a different op.
~ Internet ~
My brother and I originally signed up with 'Cable Internet' for £9.99 a month (not including call charges) which was reasonable 7 years ago and we found this to be a very reliable service almost always connecting at good speeds with our 56K modems. This dial-up service has gone through many upgrades (far too many to list here) but they now offer two dial-up tariffs, the 'Surf Unlimited' tariff which is £12 a month with no call charges, the pay as you go (PAYG) tariff is a FREE subscription with a call connection charge of 5p and 1.5p per minute thereafter. Both tariffs come bundled with FREE software, up to 15 e-mail addresses and 30MB personal web space. I am not able to comment on the reliability of this service nowadays as I have been with 'Blueyonder Broadband' for over a year now. More information can be obtained from the 'Blueyonder' website at http://www.blueyonder.co.uk.
The high-speed internet connection known as 'Blueyonder Broadband' (512K) claims to be up to 10 times faster than that of a 56K modem dial-up connection and I can certainly vouch for that, in fact I am currently downloading an MP3 file at the time of writing this and it is downloading at 65K a second without too much fluctuation and the speed is also noticeable when surfing the net. This service costs £25 a month if you currently subscribe to another Telewest service or £33 a month otherwise. You also get the same benefits of multiple e-mail addresses and personal web space.To be able to use the broadband service you will first need to have a Network Interface Card (NIC) which you can now pick-up for as little as £10 - The recommended minimum system requirements are as follows:
Windows 95/98/ME - P166MHZ with 32MB RAM or Windows 2000/NT - P200MHZ with 64MB RAM
125MB free hard-disk space
NIC (10BaseT or 100BaseT)
Unlike the traditional modem, you are provided with a 'Cable Modem', so basically you do not use a telephone line to connect to the internet - you are connected to the internet 24 hours a day and 7 days a week without any additional charge. This is made possible by using a standard coaxial RF cable, the same type that is used for digital TV and these are all provided by Blueyonder at the time of installation.More recently Blueyonder have introduced an even faster 'Blueyonder Broadband' service (1MB), which is twice as fast as the 512K broadband, therefore roughly 20 times faster than 56K dial-up and I am seriously considering upgrading, however the cost is increased to £35 a month to existing customers of broadband or £40 a month to new customers.
~ Summary ~
My family have been customers with Telewest for over 7 years and have had a few problems with their level of customer of service, however we stuck with them, they have improved and offer some good services, so my recommendations would be as follows:
I would not recommend their TV package 5/10 I would recommend their Telephone package 7/10 I would highly recommend their Internet package 10/10
Ciao for now .. Wolfie
* UPDATE *
Have now upgraded to their Broadband (1MB) service which was surprisingly quick and easy (for existing customers) - I went to the Blueyonder Broadband home page located at 'http://www.blueyonder.co.uk and clicked on the item that says "New 1MB service - Click Here" from which you need to log-on with your username and password, after reading some brief information on the new service, i accepted their terms and conditions and 24 hours later all I had to do was to disconnect my cable modem (turn off power from the wall) for 2 minutes and voila, i am now enjoying much faster download speeds (have noticed a download at 104K a second so far).
New customers will get the option of either 512K or 1MB service at the time of applying.
Definately worth the upgrade if you are keen on your big downloads.
I have telewest TV, Phone and Dial up unlimited services. Unfortunately I can't get Broadband in my area and they reckon its going to take another year to get round to me. I'm seriously considering switching everything to BT. Especially as I had to wait almost a year before there was "space in the box" for them to connect me to cable TV.
coolchanty 14.08.2002 21:15
A great opinion. Well detailed and contains plenty. Well done. Chantal
mikeuk 10.08.2002 13:44
Interesting review, can't get Broadband here yet and entirely at mercy of BT!