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Survey – Fear of Downtime Discourages UK Broadband ISP Switching

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 2,083

A new uSwitch.com survey of 2,002 “nationally representative” UK adults via Opinium has revealed that a third of consumers who suffered downtime while trying to switch broadband ISP are less likely to ever attempt such a move again, while ISPs tended to blame outages on engineer delays and admin errors.

The degree to which downtime (i.e. broadband stops working) can occur usually depends upon the type of switch and whether or not it requires a change of broadband platform. For example, switching from one broadband ISP on Openreach’s (BT) national network to another one on the same platform should be fairly painless and you might not even notice an outage (experiences vary, especially when unbundled ISPs are thrown into the mix).

On the other hand if you need to move from BT’s platform to Virgin Media’s cable network then there may be a period where you can’t use either service and it’s a similar situation for house moves. Sometimes it’s simply not possible to perfectly coordinate complicated switches and other times there may be unexpected problems, such as delays with engineers or the ISP failing to deliver your router on time.

The new survey reveals that 62% of respondents have switched ISP at some point, but only 11% of UK adults have switched in the past 12 months (similar to Ofcom’s figure). Overall 45% of those who have switched ISP suffered 0 days of downtime (i.e. no outage or a short / unnoticed outage), while 26% experienced downtime of 1-3 days, 12% said it lasted 4-6 days, 10% said 1-2 weeks, 3% said 3-4 weeks, 1% said 5-6 weeks, another 1% said 7-8 week and the final 1% answered with 9 weeks+.

The respondents who had suffered downtime during a switch were then asked whether the delay in getting back online had put them off ever switching broadband providers again. Overall 8% said yes – definitely, 26% said yes – a little bit, 29% said no – not particularly, 30% said no – not at all and finally 6% said not sure. The excuses that customers received from their ISP also varied quite a bit.

Those who experience a broadband void when switching provider were asked: What were the reasons cited by the new provider for the delay in installing your broadband? Results (%)
No excuse was given to me 22%
Engineer delay 17%
Openreach engineer delay 12%
Administrative error 8%
Infrastructure issue (e.g. cables needed to be laid) 7%
Router not working 5%
Router lost in post 3%
Payment error 3%
Other 4%

It’s noted that 16% of those affected by the aforementioned downtime tried to mitigate it by using the Internet at their work / office, while 12% went to a library to get online, 11% purchased a dongle (USB Modem) for Mobile Broadband, another 11% tried using public WiFi via a cafe / restaurant, a further 11% Tethered their Smartphone’s mobile data to a computer, 5% used a neighbours WiFi (hopefully with their permission) and 5% paid for a BT WiFi Hotspot.

The survey also asked those who had switched why they chose to do it, which found that 37% just wanted to save money, 32% weren’t happy with their existing service, 25% sought faster speeds, 17% were moving house, 15% wanted to get a bundle and 8% were after a bigger download allowance. Interestingly 18% of switchers claim to have saved no money at all, but overall respondents made a mean (average) saving of £9.80 per month (£117.60 per year).

As a rule if broadband access is important to you then it’s probably best to expect a few days of downtime and be prepared for if that happens, such as by warning your contacts or using Mobile Broadband as a backup connection (assuming that’s available). Most of the time a switch can be organised so that everything happens quite smoothly, but digital networks are complicated and all sorts of things can create unexpected delays.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Jonny Roadley says:

    This is really sad, I have recently changed suppliers – had about 5 minutes downtime as I swapped routers over. This has resulted in me getting the same speed for £17 a month less.

  2. Ignition says:

    Plusnet have, or at least in my experience had, a superb way to ensure migration both inbound and outbound carries downtime. They don’t enable your login until the very early morning of the day after migration in, and disable it in the very early morning on the way out.

  3. Doctor Colossus says:

    Funny that this should be published today – I’ve just been on the phone to by new supplier asking for an explanation why I have no broadband yet.

    I ordered a switch to the new service 15 days ago, and apart from a confirmation, I never got any more information. My existing supplier told me that they would stop supplying the services on the 31st (today), so I assumed this would also be the “Go Live” date with said new supplier.

    What has actually happened is that I have no broadband and until I called up myself, I had no explanation why. I had to ring up to find out that my Go Live date has been moved back 2 days with “OpenReach” named as the culprit. I am now left hoping that I will receive the router from my new supplier within the next 2 days – in time for the supposed new activation time.

    Not the best start, if I’m being honest. Although I work from home, luckily, I don’t rely on my painfully slow connection for work, and my data allowance should tide me over until I do get connected, but still… Poor show.

  4. Stephen G says:

    Still waiting for the 4 routers Talk Talk told me they’d sent out to me about 5 years ago, I’m guessing they’re not going to turn up now?
    Ideally I’d like to leave Sky and go for a more open ISP, I dislike any site being blocked and my hatred of Murdoch runs deep.
    Alas to be fair the service from Sky is good and the fear of another debacle happening is the ONLY thing that stops me from changing ISP’s.

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