Highstreet stalwart John Lewis might be more famous for its stores, but it also provides broadband and home phone services. It’s not the cheapest supplier out there, but is it worth paying slightly more for a brand name you trust?
Adored by generations of shoppers for combining quality products with top class customer service, John Lewis has been offering broadband since 2012. It offers three straightforward broadband and phone packages with no set-up or activation fees, and throws in extras such as Bullguard security and a John Lewis email address for free.
John Lewis broadband offers simple no-nonsense packages. There are three packages available: Unlimited broadband and phone with an average download speed of 10Mbps, Fibre broadband and phone averaging 36Mbps, and Fibre Extra broadband and phone averaging 66Mbps.
All three deals come with a phone line with inclusive evening and weekend calls to UK landlines. There’s also the option to upgrade your call plan to anytime or anytime and international, and to add on calls to UK mobiles. There’s no option to do away with the phone line however. A router is included with each broadband deal and there are no activation charges or usage caps. All three deals are available on 12-month contracts only, with price increases after 12 months.
For many households, a standard broadband will be enough. However, you may benefit from a faster fibre speed if you stream a lot of audio or video, or if you have multiple users all online at the same time.
John Lewis broadband isn't the cheapest, but it offers a simple pricing structure with no hidden costs. It’s interesting to point out that John Lewis’ broadband service is provided by Plusnet, which offers slightly cheaper deals for the same speeds on the same 12-month terms. Unlike John Lewis, Plusnet also offers one-month and 18-month contracts, as well as the option to have a broadband connection combined with line rental from another provider.
Upload speeds will matter to people who send emails with large attachments, upload photos or videos to the web, or who play games online. However, for people who spend most of their time reading emails or surfing the web, download speeds will be much more important.
You will get upload speeds of up to 9.5Mbps on John Lewis’ 36Mbps Fibre deal and up to 19Mb on its Fibre Extra package. These upload speeds are very similar to those offered by Sky Broadband or BT, and generally faster than the upload speeds offered by Virgin Media.
John Lewis’ broadband packages come free from installation or activation charges. However, you’ll need a normal phone line at your property for the set-up to be completely fee-free. If you don’t have a phone line, John Lewis can install one for you, but this will come with a one-off cost.
If you’re switching broadband services from another supplier, John Lewis will contact your current supplier and arrange everything for you. (The exception to this is if you are with Virgin Media, in which case you will have to make direct contact). You shouldn’t need to tell your existing provider to cancel your service – most providers will automatically cancel your service once the migration to your new provider is complete. The switch should take between 10 and 12 working days.
All John Lewis broadband packages come with a free router. The standard broadband package comes with a Netgear WNR1000. You can install it yourself and there are set-up instructions on the John Lewis website.
If you sign up to one of John Lewis’ fibre broadband services, you get a better router – the ZyXEL VMG8924. This offers dual-band wireless connectivity which provides a better signal throughout your home, and it has four gigabit ethernet ports to enable high-speed connections to any wired devices. A firewall, enhanced wireless security, and parental controls are also included. Again, there’s a set-up guide on John Lewis’ website for these.
The website also has tips about how to get the best wi-fi speeds. Try to place your router close to where you'll be using broadband the most. Thick walls, concrete floors and large metal surfaces can affect the wireless signal, so avoid these if you can. The ZyXEL VMG8924 is not a bad router, but the tech-savvy will recognise it as not being up there with Sky’s Q Hub or the BT Smart Hub.
Your actual download speeds will vary depending on your location, phone line, home wiring and time of day. John Lewis will provide you with a speed estimate when you check availability of the package you want to purchase, although now that the speed advertised is available to at last 50% of John Lewis customers, you have a good chance of getting the speed you pay for.
John Lewis broadband is provided by Plusnet, and offers UK-based 24/7 freefone UK-based customer support. However, Ofcom's service quality report in April 2017 found that, at seven minutes 27 seconds, Plusnet has the longest average call waiting time out of the major broadband providers.
John Lewis includes BullGuard for PC users. Bullguard is a simple and complete PC security package with anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, spam filter and online backup protection. It's compatible with Windows 8,7, Vista and XP (SP2 minimum).To download BullGuard after you've signed up, you’ll need to log in to your add-ons page at My Account.
A John Lewis webmail address comes as part of the John Lewis broadband package. There’s also the option to buy a static IP address from John Lewis for a small fee. This can be added via My Account on the John Lewis Broadband website. The phone service comes with 1571 voicemail and the Telephone Preference Service included.
John Lewis prides itself on its reputation for first-class customer service. There’s plenty of online support for its broadband customers, including Service Status, which provides details of any maintenance work or issues that might be affecting your service. There’s also a broadband trouble-shooter that can diagnose and fix problems.
However, it’s worth pointing out that John Lewis’ advertised prices are for new customers only and broadband prices rise when the initial 12-month contract is up. Existing customers will need to haggle a new deal if they don’t want to pay the higher price after a year of service – so loyalty could cost you.
But on the plus side, a big selling point for John Lewis broadband is consistent pricing regardless of where you live in the country. This differs from parent company Plusnet that charges different prices depending on your location. Plusnet customers in "non-low cost areas" (which it could just call "high cost" areas) pay more than other customers for broadband because it costs Plusnet more to provide broadband in these (usually rural) areas.
John Lewis may enjoy strong brand loyalty and have a dedicated customer base, but will that be enough to persuade customers to choose it over more established broadband providers?
Its three broadband deals are simple and straightforward, but not the cheapest around. Plus you’re restricted to a 12-month contract and a package including a phone line. John Lewis broadband is provided by Plusnet, which itself offers slightly cheaper deals and a choice of contract lengths.
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