Direct Save Telecom might not be a household name, but it has been a broadband and landline provider since 1999. It is the trade name of Utilities UK, and its main claims to fame are that it offers some of the cheapest broadband packages in the country without a credit check.
The company asks that customers pay their first invoice before they go live on the service. This invoice will consist of the line rental and call/broadband charges for the partial days in the month of activation and for the next full month. So, no credit check, but an upfront cost to contend with. The prospect of cheap broadband might be enticing, but saving a few pounds here and there is pointless if the service isn’t up to scratch.
The entry-level deal offers an average of 11Mbps, which is enough for browsing the web, sending emails and some basic streaming. But this is a ‘standard’ broadband service which uses copper, not fibre, cables.
This means that speeds might vary, particularly at busy times, meaning you might not always get the average advertised. If there are several users and devices accessing the network, then it could become sluggish quite quickly. If that’s a concern, then you should sign up for one of Direct Save’s superfast fibre broadband packages, which come in two speeds – averaging 35Mbps and 63Mbps.
For most households, 35Mbps should be more than sufficient and because it’s fibre, it doesn’t get as congested as a copper network. These speeds should handle most applications, such as streaming and online gaming, but again it depends on how many users and devices are connected.
These ‘superfast’ fibre broadband services use Openreach’s fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) network, which means they use copper cables for the final few hundred metres of the connection. This doesn’t mean you will always get the headline speed promised, but it should limit your vulnerability to network congestion.
But Direct Save offers a third option for a select few locations. Since 2017, the company has offered up to 300Mbps packages to newbuild homes, connected via fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology. Unlike FTTC, FTTP uses fibre for the entire connection, enabling ‘ultrafast’ broadband. It’s what is meant by the term ‘full fibre’.
Coverage is extremely limited at present, but if you are in one of the FTTP areas you can get up to 300Mbps. As ever, the real world speed you can get depends on your area, so make sure you check both availability and speed before signing up.
Of course, these figures refer to download speeds, not uploads speeds. Upload speeds will generally be lower, but are critical for those who want to share large files, such as photos and documents. Direct Save’s 35Mbps product includes upload speeds of up to 9.5Mbps, which is on a par with most other providers, while its 300Mbps service promises up to 30Mbps. For the sake of comparison, Virgin Media's 350Mbps service only offers an upload speed of 20Mbps.
There are no specific download limits except for the 20GB no-contract product, although Direct Save says that if it detects that phone or broadband use is “beyond home usage” it might offer customers the chance to switch to a business broadband product.
Direct Save lets you save money by paying for a year’s line rental in advance, although it claims its monthly line rental is still cheaper than BT's. The company has three call plans - a pay-as-you-go plan, an evenings-and-weekends call package, and an anytime call package. Again, Direct Save claims its pay-as-you-go rates are cheaper than the competition.
However, free doesn’t necessarily mean free. For residential call plans, there is a ‘fair use’ policy in place. Free calls are up to 60 minutes and there is a maximum of 1,500 minutes or 300 calls month. If these limits are exceeded, Direct Save Telecom will charge for these calls until further notice and any calls exceeding 60 minutes will be chargeable in full.
In keeping with its low-cost mantra, Direct Save doesn’t charge a fee for a telephone line activation, and it promises to offer a reduced rate for new line installations. It should only take up to two working days to activate an existing telephone line.
If you’re taking out a broadband package, there is no installation cost if you agree to a minimum term, but if you take out a 28-day rolling agreement, there is a one-off charge to pay.
Direct Save says it takes just a few minutes to sign up and the actual time between signing up and an account being activated is between 14 and 18 days. Broadband will be activated on the same day in 70 per cent of exchanges, while others might take 5 to 10 days.
Customers who take out a broadband service are given a free wireless router, which is pre-configured for the Direct Save Network. Most users will get the TP-LINK TD-W8951ND, which delivers speeds of up to 150Mbps, one-touch wireless security, and has an easy on/off button.
Those who take out the 300Mbps FTTP package will get the TP-LINK TD-W8960N router which not only supports the faster speeds, but also lets you create a virtual guest network so you don’t need to share your home password with everyone if they want to use your wi-fi.
The company’s main technical support team work from 9am to 5pm, but there is a 24-hour service if needed. If there is an issue with the line, then Direct Save Telecom will log a fault with Openreach who will then dispatch an engineer.
Specific figures for Direct Save are hard to come by, but since its services are delivered by Openreach, there is some data available. According to Openreach’s most recent figures, it will fix most faults within two working days and less than one per cent of all faults take longer than a month.
Furthermore, more than 80 per cent of all faults are fixed within the agreed time.
Direct Save boasts about its UK-based customer service team, which can be reached on the phone between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 5pm at the weekend. There’s also an option to email and receive a response within 24 working hours.
Unfortunately, the company is not covered by Ofcom’s reports on telecoms complaints, so it’s difficult to compare it to other providers. However several online review services feature complaints regarding billing, provision and the conduct of customer service agents.
In the absence of Ofcom’s official figures, it’s difficult to treat this as conclusive, but it remains grounds for concern.
Unlike other providers who offer television packages or free app subscriptions, Direct Save is lacking in such extras. This is except for a free ‘Discount Club’ membership that gives you specially negotiated discounts with a number of retailers, hotels and utility companies.
If you’re looking for a low-cost service, then Direct Save Telecom may be up your street. But it lacks many of the bells and whistles associated with its rivals and concerns about customer service might offset the positives.
To get the best deals you will need to sign up for a long-term contract and there are hefty disconnection charges in certain circumstances. You may also end up paying more for your service if you fall outside an ‘LLU Exchange’ – these cover 90 per cent of the UK – and there are usage limits that could also incur additional costs.
But the prospect of no credit checks may be tempting for many. Our verdict is that unless you are desperate to minimise your bill, don’t care about frills, and are confident about monitoring your use, you may be better off elsewhere.
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