Sky is hoping to change for ever the UK broadband internet market. Whether it will do that with the promise of a "free" service for its satellite-TV subscribers remains to be seen. The service offers download/upload speeds of up to 2Mb/400Kb, a free wireless ADSL router and a year's free subscription to McAfee Security Suite. This is subject to a 2GB monthly-usage cap and subscribers will need to lash out at least £40 for an activation fee and might need to spend a further £50 if opting for "professional" rather than DIY installation.
Also available will be a £14-per-month phone service with free UK national calls. And, there's an option to choose from one of two faster, paid-for broadband services.
Choices are 8Mb/400Kb for £5 per month, with £20 for activation and the same option £50 installation fee; and 16Mb/768Kb for a very keen £10 monthly fee - with free activation and free professional installation. The 8Mb 'Mid' service has a 40GB usage limit, while the 16Mb 'Max' is said to be unlimited but subject to a fair-usage policy.
Sky subscribers can register their interest from today at Sky Broadband but the service proper is only set to start in August.
And, contrary to more optimistic expectations, the "free" service won't necessarily be offered to all Sky TV subscribers.
Availability of the various services will depend on the state of local-loop unbundling in the subscriber's local exchange. Country dwellers also need to know that the push for additional unbundled exchanges is being concentrated in cities, rather than rural areas.
Today, Sky claims to have 373 exchanges containing its own gear. That's reckoned to give it access to just 28 per cent of UK homes.
However, the company is promising to increase the number of unbundled exchanges to 767 by December - boosting its reach to 51 per cent of UK homes - and has set itself a target of 1,200 exchanges and 70 per cent of households by the end of 2007. How soon - if ever - the remaining 30 per cent can come into the fold isn't yet known
Sky subscribers whose local exchanges don't yet have the company's switchgear will still be able to sign up for internet and phone services but under somewhat different terms.
On the internet side, there will be a monthly fee - £17 - plus an initial £40 for activation (and optional £50 installation fee). This 'Connect' service is said to have speeds of up to 8Mb/448Kb and a 40GB usage cap.
For the phone service, subscribers with non-Sky exchanges will have to continue paying line-rental to BT but Sky will charge only £5 per month - increasing that by £9 monthly when it does take over the line. However, that process will only start rolling out next year.
In the figures that it's putting out, Sky makes savings-comparisons between its various broadband services and those provided by BT, Orange and NTL. These range from £175 per year up to £231.
However, what Sky doesn't do is make any comparisons with the current hot "free-broadband-for-life" and free phone service - Talk Talk - from Carphone Warehouse. There's probably good reasons for glossing over Talk Talk and to find out what they might be, you should check out this HEXUS.headline.
So, what's Sky up to?
Well, Sky's launch of an own-brand internet service has been on the cards since last year's takeover of the Easynet internet service provider - on whose back the local-loop unbundling is taking place.
Sky already claims to be Europe’s largest legal video-download service thanks to Sky by broadband, has millions of satellite subscribers and sees the convergence of TV, phone and ever-faster internet connections as the way of the future and a route to continued profitability. Between 2007 and 2009, though, Sky is expecting profits to be reduced by a total of £400 million as a result of the investment involved in its new TV+broadband+phone strategy.
Though Sky itself says nothing of the sort, today's move must also be seen as laying the ground for it to switch to offering full TV services over broadband - if and when it judges the time to be right.
As a belt-and-braces job, we've extracted the following terms and conditions from the Sky Broadband sign-up page.
Base - Free; Mid - £5; Max - £10; Connect - £17. Activation fee: Base - £40; Mid - £20; Max – free; Connect – £40. SHS Home Installation: Free if you subscribe to Sky Broadband Max, otherwise £50. Prices subject to change.
Monthly usage limit
Base: 2GB; Mid – 40GB; Max – Unlimited subject to Fair Usage Policy; Connect – 40GB. Maximum download speed: Base – up to 2Mb; Mid – up to 8Mb; Max – up to 16Mb; Connect – up to 8Mb. Maximum upload speed: Base – up to 400Kb; Mid – up to 400Kb; Max – up to 768Kb; Connect – up to 448Kb.
If your PC or laptop is not wireless enabled you can buy the necessary equipment from Sky.
If you are a PC user you will receive 12 months free McAfee Internet Security Suite worth £49.98. If you are a MAC user you will receive 12 months free McAfee Virex worth £29.99.
Interesting? Oh yes. Worth discussing? Absolutely and you can do that in this thread over in the HEXUS.community.
We'd missed the fact that Sky's phone service won't be available until 2007 but have now put that right.
July 18, 17:45
Various paragraphs have been changed to make clear that the £50 home-installation fee is not mandatory but an option for subscribers to the Base, Mid and Connect services who'd rather not carry out installations themselves. Max subscribers who'll be paying £10 a month for an uncapped 16Mb/768Kb service get installation thrown in free.
First-time broadband users may find the no-rental Base deal attractive and be happy to pay out £50 to avoid hassle. Most adopters of the Max service, we suspect, will be migrating from other broadband providers and, thus, unlikely to need or want professional help with the installation - or, at least, that's what we reckon Sky must be banking on by offering it to them free.
HEXUS. community :: discussion thread about this article
HEXUS.headline - Carphone Warehouse reveals details of 'free' broadband - it's war!
Sky - Sky Broadband internet service
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