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NTL goes Quadplay

UK cable player NTL on Wednesday launched its quadplay service in the UK with a promise that it could save consumers up to £400 a year.

The offering ‘4 for £40’ includes digital TV with video on demand, unlimited broadband, home telephone and a mobile service for £40 per month.

While NTL is attempting to gain a lead on its rivals, at launch the company exposed several weaknesses, chief of which is its broadband service. At 2MB the offering is a full 6MB behind its chief rival, BT which has been providing 8MB for several months and is planning to introduce an IPTV service in October.

Asked if the firm thought 2MB was enough, James Kydd, NTL’s marketing director told Telecoms.com that “the chances are that only very few people are actually getting 8MB and the quality of broadband over cable is well known”.

NTL also offers unlimited weekend calls to any UK landline but BT has been offering both evening and weekends for some time.

Enter the Virgin brand which has plaudits the length and breadth of the UK and was bought by NTL in an attempt to turn around its customer service record. Virgin will supply a SIM that gives customers 300 free texts and 300 free minutes as well as free voicemail. If users do not want to use the Virgin Mobile part, they can opt for NTL’s 3 for £30 offering and stay with their own mobile company.

“If users want to stay with say their Orange mobile, that’s fine,” said Kydd, “they can pay for the 3 for £30 package and pay another £25 to their mobile provider which isn’t as attractive at 4 for £55.”

Amit Nagtal, head of mobile at industry analyst firm Analysis Research, believes NTL’s approach is “interesting” and isn’t overly concerned by its 2MB broadband offering. He said: “The rest of the country is moving to 8MB and for some that might be important but you can get most of what you need to get done with 2MB.”

Nagtal believes the firm’s advantage over players like Carphone Warehouse, BT and Orange – all of whom are moving to converged offerings – is that its marketing message is easy to understand. “Certain people want a converged service but NTL’s is a converged tariff and that will appeal to a lot of consumers… I think the jury is out on how many customers they will attract but they have done the right thing with this.”

In a statement NTL said: “This is the first move from the newly united ntl Telewest and Virgin Mobile, ahead of their re-branding next year to form the UK’s most versatile entertainment and communications provider. Neil Berkett, chief operating officer of ntl Telewest, said: “It’s more than just another cut-price offer, because it also equips customers for the infinite possibilities presented as these different technologies increasingly interact.” However, Kydd recognises that the firm’s reputation for appalling customer service will be a “challenge”.

“Clearly the whole emphasis at NTL is the customer service element,” Kydd explained. “The problem in the past was not down to poor people, it was a serious lack of investment, several billing systems, not enough people to answer the phones. Today though, we are training our staff to the sorts of levels that Virgin would be proud of and all the senior NTL managers have been replaced. Changes are being made and with a massive sense of urgency.”

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