By Dan Howdle | Monday, November 11th 2019
Utility Warehouse specialises in being a one-stop shop for all your services – broadband, gas, electric and mobile. But is there actually money to be saved here? We take a look at its broadband and phone deals to see where it sits in the market alongside other broadband providers.
|Average download speed||11Mbps, 35Mbps, 63Mbps|
|Average upload speed||1Mbps, 10Mbps, 20Mbps|
|Prices from||£27.99 p/m|
It feels a little odd just talking about broadband when it comes to Utility Warehouse. After all, its main selling point is that you can bundle up all your services – gas, electric, mobile, broadband and phone – into a single provider with a single monthly payment. Separate broadband out on its own, and to be perfectly frank, there's not an awful lot to write home about.
Utility Warehouse broadband operates on the Openreach network, which is the same physical network (wires, exchanges and cabinets) as all other providers except for Virgin Media, which runs its own. As such, there's little if anything to choose between Utility Warehouse and all those other providers when it comes to the speeds offered.
What we have then are ADSL broadband (named Standard Broadband here) averaging 11Mbps, entry-level fibre (Ultra Fibre Broadband) averaging 35Mbps, and a faster fibre package (Ultra+ Fibre Broadband) averaging 63Mbps. There is nothing particularly noteworthy here beyond the price of these basic services which, when you factor the cost of the phone line, are single-handedly the most expensive prices for these speeds in the entire country at the time of writing.
According to Ofcom data the UK’s average broadband speed is 46.2Mbps. Although 63Mbps is far from the fastest broadband speed widely available in the UK, it is the top speed offered by most providers thanks to the ubiquity of the Openreach network.
Contracts are all 18 months in length, which is not unusual for broadband and phone. However, if you were looking for something that ties you in for a shorter period, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.
Again, what you have here are the bog-standard upload speeds you'll find on any other provider on the Openreach network (everyone else bar Virgin Media). That is 1Mbps, 10Mbps and 20Mbps respective to the three packages Utility Warehouse offers.
Generally speaking, most people don't bump up against the limitations of their upload speed very often, since there are comparatively few things you might be doing that use upload. Practically everything you do on the internet, from surfing to social media to streaming and more – all of it uses download.
At the time of writing, Utility Warehouse was offering no special deals for signing up just to broadband beyond the accoutrements it offers on a full-time, ongoing basis such as money towards buying out your old contract. If you bundle up your gas and electric too, however, it offers to replace all the old-style lightbulbs in your house with long-lasting energy savers. Energy saving bulbs are not cheap, so this is quite generous.
The situation with routers on Utility Warehouse is somewhat bizarre. There are three different routers available (Value Router, Premium Router and Super Router), and you'll only get one of them for free (the value router). Utility Warehouse will charge you extra money per month for any router other than the most basic – a cheap Technicolour model that's really only going to serve your needs if you opt for the ADSL package.
The Premium Router and Super Router, Utility Warehouse claims, will suit larger households of 3+ and 4+ bedrooms respectively. Utility Warehouse isn't forthcoming on the actual specifications of each of these routers, but we would be hard-pressed to believe that its top router is better than that supplied as standard with any BT, Virgin Media or Sky Broadband deal. Utility Warehouse is the only provider we have ever come across that will charge you extra money each month just so you can have a capable router. It's quite shocking, actually.
As with any provider on the Openreach network, it'll take about two weeks to get your Utility Warehouse broadband and phone installed, though this can take a bit longer and indeed incur additional costs if you don't have an existing phone line at your property.
During period between signing up and getting up and running, Utility Warehouse will send you whichever router you chose ready for activation day. You won't need to contact your existing provider, as Utility Warehouse will take care of that for you. However, if you are currently a Virgin Media, you will need to contact them and cancel your existing service after you sign up to Utility Warehouse.
Once you're set up, if you're not happy with the service you're getting, you can cancel any time within the first 14 days without charge. This is called the cooling off period. As with any provider you may struggle to recoup any costs incurred the provider in initially providing you the service – the postal charge for your router for example. And you will have to return any equipment provided to you. If you wish to cancel after the cooling off period on any other basis than extended and unsolved broadband service/supply issues, you will have to pay cancellation charges.
Utility Warehouse simply isn't a large enough provider to feature in Ofcom's yearly customer service ratings. Instead we must turn to Trustpilot – where customers write reviews of the company – to get a sense of how it does on a customer service level.
Utility Warehouse gets four stars out of five, so a lot of positive reviews. It's hard to get a handle on how it does specifically on broadband, since many of those writing reviews of the company have taken out multiple services. Those with an axe to grind often complain of the amount of time they had to wait on hold when there was some sort of problem with their service or bill. Hardly the worse crime!
It's also worth bearing in mind that most providers do pretty poorly on Trustpilot, since such things have a habit of drawing more negative reviews than positive. People with an axe to grind are more inclined to go online and write a review. Four out of five stars is actually pretty impressive with that in mind.
On the plus side, Utility Warehouse has won multiple awards – some from the likes of Which? and Moneywise. The ability to get all your bills from a single provider is going to appeal to many, though no one can argue your options become far less flexible in doing so. If you get broadband from Utility Warehouse along with gas and electric, its offer to replace all the old-style light bulbs in your house with energy saving bulbs is very generous indeed.
However, if you're not going to take out multiple services. If you intend only to use Utility Warehouse as a broadband provider, you're going to find the same service a lot cheaper elsewhere, and you won't be charged additional money each month just for the privilege of having a decent router.
Does Utility Warehouse make sense? Yes, if you're going to bundle everything. But not so much sense if all you're interested in is broadband and phone. There are options out there that are cheaper, faster and all-round better.