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Independent

Net a three-in-one broadband service

There are deals to be had, especially for new customers, writes John Cradden, but the simplest and cheapest switching method is to find a provider that offers internet, TV and a landline all in one bundle

If you have broadband at home, the chances are it is bundled with a landline phone and maybe a TV service. But if you're looking to save money by switching these services, there are two different ways of doing it.

The first - and simplest - way is to switch your broadband, phone and TV bundle to a different provider who also offers all three services.

According to price comparison sites, switching TV providers alone can save you up to €200 a year, while bundling broadband, home phone and digital TV products into one package can reduce your bill by up to €300 per year.

The good news is that there is now more choice, with Eir now offering a 'triple-play' package to rival those by Virgin Media and Sky. Eir's package looks attractively cheap at just €25 a month for 55-channel TV, 100mb broadband and free calls to mobiles and landlines as long as you're a new customer and you sign up online, but there are a couple of catches.

The first is that the €25 a month rate lasts for only six months (after which the price goes up to €77 a month), and the other you have to sign up for at least 18 months.

Sky's basic triple-play package of 50-channel TV, unlimited 100mb broadband and free off-peak calls to landlines costs €79.50 a month (although new customers who sign a 12-month pay a reduced rate of €49 for the first year), while Virgin's package of 55 channel TV, 240mb broadband and free calls to Irish mobiles and landlines costs €80 a month (€40 for the first four months) and you have to sign an 18-month contract.

Of course, these packages are usually available only to those who live in city or urban areas or locations to where Eir's fibre network has so far stretched.

If your bundle is just broadband and phone, Simon Moynihan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie says that approaches to broadband pricing in general have become "slightly more homogenous", which means the savings possible by switching such 'dual-play' bundles are not that attractive.

However, you can still save by switching to a cheaper standalone broadband service and just ditch the landline in favour of your mobile and/or making free voice calls over the internet.

A broadband-only service is cheaper than the far more common broadband and phone bundle because you don't have to pay line rental charges, but there is also a "wider price differential" among competing standalone products than with broadband and phone packages, notes Moynihan.

Pure Telecom offers a 100mb service for €37 a month, while Vodafone and Eir have identical services for €40 and €45 a month, respectively.

Virgin offers a 240mb standalone product for €50 a month and even a 360mb one for €60 (excluding discounts). If you have the option, paying the little bit extra for broadband speeds of two or three times its competitors must make going for Virgin a no-brainer?

Not necessarily, says Moynihan.

"Don't worry about speed too much, because if you're in an area that gets 100mbps, that is massively adequate for nearly everything," he says.

Speeds on non-fibre networks are limited to 24Mbps, but even that more than meets most needs.

Moynihan himself recently upgraded his home broadband from a 24Mbps DSL service to a 100mbps fibre-based one and, while the speed at which websites load is "slightly quicker", he believes that the average user would otherwise be hard pressed to notice the difference.

He says the fact that Virgin is offering a 360mbps service is "phenomenal" and reflects how far Irish broadband speeds have jumped from the heady heights of the limited 1mbps services of just 10 years ago, "but whether it's necessary for everybody I don't know".

For your TV service, you can fork out for a standalone cable TV from Sky or Virgin or invest in a combined free-to-air TV set-up that receives the Irish Saorview terrestrial service and a UK satellite service.

According to Larry Mackey of BillfreeTV.ie, the number of people who have been opting for combination set-top boxes has "exploded" in the last two years as more folk realise they can get more than 100 channels for free in return for a once-off investment in the equipment required to receive them. A basic package can be bought for just €250.

Moynihan, however, believes many punters will still be prepared to pay to access particular premium channels like Sky TV or Sky Sports than rely on a combined free-to-air Irish/UK service.

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