Though the combination of broadband and telephone services is the most popular 'bundled' package, a number of broadband companies have expanded their offers to incorporate other services into the deals. This allows them to grab a large share of several markets, increasing profitability while offering a better deal for consumers.
Stretching beyond broadband and phone packages is not a new concept, NTL:Telewest (now Virgin Media) has offered dial up internet, phone and TV in a product bundle for more than 10 years. It is only recently since the emergence of alternative bundled packages that consumers have become aware of the benefits of combining these services together.
The market exploded in late 2006 when Sky entered the fray offering packages that combine broadband, phone and television. The presence of a big name brand in the market made bundled offers extremely popular. This was furthered by BT launching an on-demand TV package called BT Vision.
In early 2007 the bundled era took a new twist when NTL:Telewest, Virgin.net and Virgin Mobile re-branded to form Virgin Media, at the same time becoming the first broadband company to offer 'quad play' – broadband with television, phone and mobile phone combined.
So are these deals legitimately better than taking out contracts on products individually? Of course the key to securing any good deal is to shop around and the vast array of offers available shouldn't stop you from considering bundled or individual products.
However, there are huge savings to be made by taking advantage of these combined services. With prices so low, the key for many consumers is to find a broadband provider that delivers a decent price and good customer service. The advantage of combining services together is that you will have less hassle, but bundling can sometimes impair service quality if one part of your product bundle isn't as good as another part, or you don't use it but still have to pay for it.
The popularity of some deals has led to some negative press for the quality of customer service offered by some providers, which we will examine in part five.
Broadband internet is now not just available in your home, but while you're on the move too – through mobile phone services. So it's no surprise that broadband and mobile phones are the latest packages to be bundled together.
Broadly, there are two different forms of broadband/mobile phone bundles available.
The first are those that allow you to access the internet on your mobile phone – such as the web'n'walk tariffs available from T-Mobile. Basically this means you pay an extra monthly charge to be able to surf the web and send emails while you're using a mobile phone.
Alternatively, you can tie in a traditional broadband deal with a mobile phone contract through providers such as Orange, Vodafone and Virgin Media. Usually this will mean receiving a traditional broadband service with a selection of download caps and speeds to choose from and combining it with a mobile phone tariff that offers a select number of texts and minutes per month for a set fee.
The important factors to consider before you opt for a broadband/mobile deal are how you use the internet and whether the tariffs available truly offer better value based on your phone usage.
For example, would you use the internet on the move? Could it be useful for you to have the internet in hand so you can contact the office or send emails while you're travelling?
In addition, would you use up your full quota of texts and minutes each month? Or would it be better for you to have a separate broadband deal with a pay-as-you-go service for your mobile phone or a contract that better suits your requirements?
Of course, bundles are not limited to broadband and any one of mobile, TV and home phone services. You can actually combine three of these services through a host of providers including BT, Sky and Tiscali.
Currently there is only one provider in the UK that offers to combine all four services – broadband, phone, mobile and TV. That is Virgin Media, which was the first to launch a 'quad play' deal in 2007.
As explained in the earlier sections of the guide, the key to any broadband bundle is to think about how you use the services. There's little point in paying extra for services you won't use and you might be able to find cheaper deals by shopping for each component separately. You also might not like the idea of placing all your eggs into one basket and relying on one company to deliver up to four important services.
Nevertheless, bundled deals can offer huge incentives. Students and house-sharers could benefit from having one simple monthly bill that they can split between them and just dealing with one provider can make life a lot easier for anyone. There are also potentially huge savings to enjoy, especially if you make full use of all of the services on offer.
So why not see for yourself what bundled deals are available in your area by using the broadband comparison tool now?