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Best broadband deals for 2012

PC Advisor Home Broadband Survey 2012

Best broadband deals: Virgin Media Cable

Reliability satisfaction: 94.6%
Peformance (download speeds) satisfaction: 94.6%
Tech support satisfaction: 88.6%
Customer satisfaction: 85.5%
Overall satisfaction: 96%
Would recommend: 89.4%

More survey respondents (23 percent) told us they use Virgin Media’s cable-broadband service than that of any other provider.

As a quad-play operator offering a combination of broadband, home phone, mobile phone and digital TV services, it was little surprise to find significant sums being paid to Virgin Media each month. Almost 35 percent of customers are spending more than £50 each month to Virgin for their combined services, with as many again paying between £30 and £49 a month.

Most Virgin Media cable-broadband customers also get their phoneline from the company (70 percent explicitly said this was the case). In fact, taking a Virgin Media landline service is often a prerequisite. Discounted connections for Virgin Mobile customers were another a popular combination – just under 21 percent said they took advantage of this deal.

Despite its recent marketing, most customers are long-standing users, with more than half having been with the cable provider for at least five years and most other customers approaching that.

Far faster connection speeds are offered by cable than ADSL providers can supply, with Virgin Media forging ahead with up to 60Mbps connections for customers already on its 20Mbps service. More than 43 percent of Virgin Media customers who completed our survey said they have the 20Mbps or faster services; as a non-contended connection, most people said they usually get the advertised speed. A modest 9.4 percent said their connection speed was much slower than expected. The overall satisfaction figures of 96 percent were largely down to the impressive connection speeds that were acknowledged by 94.6 percent of customers.

Virgin Media Cable

However, late 2011 and early 2012 saw many reports of customers experiencing frequent connection issues. Consequently, it wasn’t much surprise to find comments along the lines of “I had frequent unexplained dropouts that took ages to be resolved.” On the whole, feedback on the reliability of Virgin Media’s cable service was very good, but many readers felt improvements were needed to the call-centre service. Lengthy waiting times and a lack of technical knowledge were common complaints. Customer service thus got a poor report, with an 85.5 percent satisfaction rating.

Virgin Media is highly praised for its unbeaten connection speeds and, in areas where it’s available, the cable service is clearly the best choice for heavy downloaders and frequent web users. There’s room for improvement in customer services, though.

Just under 80 percent of Virgin cable customers answering our survey said they were Windows and Linux users, with 12 percent using a Mac, and 10 percent describing their home setup as being a mixed PC and Mac environment. Two or three PCs and laptops are the norm.

Best broadband deals: Zen – BEST ISP

Zen

Best ISP

Reliability satisfaction: 98.9%
Peformance (download speeds) satisfaction: 92.2%
Tech support satisfaction: 99.4%
Customer satisfaction: 98.8%
Overall satisfaction: 98.9%
Would recommend: 97.6%

Zen isn’t the cheapest ADSL broadband provider, but it has always polled well in our broadband survey for customer satisfaction and good technical support. As you’ll see from the Best ISP shield adorning this write-up, Zen continues to impress.

Most Zen users take the broadband-only package with unlimited downloads (although several survey respondents were unaware of the limit). Zen also offers a fibre-optic broadband product, but we’ve received feedback from very few customers so far. Depending on the package chosen, you can subscribe to a rolling monthly contract, rather than tie yourself in for a minimum term. Most customers pay around £20 a month for a broadband-only service, and a higher proportion of Mac users than average list Zen as their ISP.

Customers have typically been with Zen for at least three years (32.7 percent have used Zen for between three and five years), with another 32 percent having at least a five-year relationship with it.

The feedback figures for Zen are nothing short of admirable. A little under 60 percent of customers said they wouldn’t consider trading their ISP for another, no matter what.

UK call centres and approachable technical support teams make the difference, it seems. “Brilliant ISP. Worth paying a little extra for the reliable, trouble-free service and friendly technical support” summarised how customers feel about our ISP of the year.

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