During lockdown, the demands on our broadband have increased dramatically. And if you were struggling with slow or unreliable broadband before, it may be even more stressful now, especially if streaming TV and making video calls are the only things keeping you sane right now.
However, if you did decide to switch to a new and better broadband service, are you able to get it installed now that some of the lockdown measures are being eased?
Note: All switches will need to be arranged and completed online as call centres have limited capacity and are prioritising vulnerable customers at this time.
Engineering work completed outside the home as much as possible
Even though lockdown restrictions have been eased, engineers will still attempt to complete as much of their work without having to enter your home.
Openreach supplies the vast majority of broadband connections within the UK, and they are now allowing their engineers to make home visits when necessary. However they won't do this unnecessarily, and will limit their time in your home as much as possible.
An Openreach spokesman said the following, “we won’t be working beyond the main telephone socket or fibre connection point in a property, and we won’t be installing extension sockets - to minimise the time engineers have to spend in your home.
“At the end of an engineer appointment, he/she will explain what they’ve done - via the phone, WhatsApp or Facetime – whichever suits you best, and to abide by social distancing measures still in place.”
If an engineer does need to enter your home they will contact you beforehand to talk you through how to make their visit as short and safe as possible.
If you have an engineer visit scheduled, be sure to do the following before they arrive:
- Clear a path to the main telephone socket or fibre connection point, if you have one.
- Clean any surfaces around the telephone socket the engineer may come into contact with.
- Open any windows or doors where the Openreach engineer will probably need to work.
An engineer visit isn’t always required
A number of the major providers all use the same Openreach network to deliver their broadband to your home. Therefore, as long as your current connection has no faults in it, you should be able to switch to a new provider on that network without requiring an engineer visit.
This would include any switch between the following providers: BT, Plusnet, NOW Broadband, TalkTalk and Sky (if you’ve ordered Sky TV along with Sky Broadband then you will need to arrange an engineer visit).
In these cases it’s a simple matter of connecting your new router to your broadband phone line and powering it up.
However, if your current broadband connection requires a new line to be installed, then you will also need to arrange an engineer visit.
Providers using Openreach network
While it may not be business as usual, the major broadband providers are still carrying out switches and set-ups for new customers, with some products currently unavailable due to the restrictions of engineer visits.
BT has recently announced the following: "Our engineers are back on the road and working inside your homes again. Of course, keeping everybody safe is of the highest importance so we are taking extra precautions."
This means that the following broadband products are available to purchase as normal:
- Full Fibre/Fibre-to-the-premises installations
- Socket adjustments or extensions
- Home Tech Expert visits
- TV Aerial fits
- Other in-home product set-ups
Note: there may be a delay due to limited engineer availability.
However, if you would still prefer not to have an engineer visit your home, you can still switch to and fro comparable services that don't require any changes or upgrades to your phone line.
Upgrading from ADSL broadband to Superfast fibre broadband can still go ahead as normal as the only engineering work that needs to take place is at the cabinet level.
According to Vodafone, 75% of current customer orders do not require an engineer to enter the home. Vodafone has a range of methods already in place for making sure they keep vulnerable customers connected in the event of a fault with their broadband service (or a connection delay) which include:
- Providing free extra mobile data for tethering (for Vodafone Together customers)
- Providing a free MiFi-style device, for use while we’re waiting for the fixed broadband service to start working
- Providing a free basic mobile phone and credit, for use while we’re waiting for a landline to start working
- Removal of its standard £60 fee for installing a new line in the home
A Vodafone spokesperson said, “Vodafone UK are working closely with Openreach to install home broadband without the need for an engineer to enter the premises. We are prioritising vulnerable customers to ensure they can stay connected during this difficult time.
“Installations that do not require an engineer to visit the home will not be impacted. This means customers can plug-and-play their Vodafone Wi Fi Hub on the day of activation. Any existing Vodafone Home Broadband services will continue to run as normal.”
Switching to TalkTalk should still remain straightforward when switching from another Openreach provider. However, there may be some potential complications if you were looking to purchase TalkTalk’s G-Fast ultrafast product.
The majority of TalkTalk installations can be done yourself and won’t require an engineer visit, but TalkTalk has said that under no circumstance will its engineers be entering customers' homes at this current moment.
The next available date available to schedule an in-home engineer visit is the 1st June 2020, though this is expected to be re-asessed as the situation develops.
Like BT, Vodafone and TalkTalk, Plusnet are continuing to connect new customers to their broadband services, provided an in-home engineer visit isn't required.
A Plusnet spokesperson said, “Our number one priority is to keep our customers connected at this time. Following guidance from our network partners at Openreach, we are continuing to provision new customers where an engineer visit is not required or where work we do can be completed outside the home as normal.
“For new customers requiring an in-home visit, we are looking to prioritise essential work for vulnerable customers and those without service, however for all other customers this may result in a delayed connection date.”
While switching your broadband and TV to Sky is still possible, all new pay-TV and Triple Play installations are being suspended until the 1st June at the earliest. This is because Sky ultrafast broadband and TV installations require an engineer to visit your home, so they're not currently possible unless you already have all the necessary equipment installed in your home.
However, you don’t have to miss out on Sky’s extensive range of channels as you can access all of them during this period either via Sky Go or its streaming platform NOW TV, which you can install yourself.
NOW Broadband is still able to connect customers who already have an existing line. The provider simply sends new customers a new hub and sets them up remotely. For those requiring a new line, diaries open 1st June at the earliest for engineer appointments but this will be reviewed as the situation progresses and vulnerable customers will be prioritised.
NOW TV, on the other hand, is a streaming service and so no engineering work is required. This allows customers to get access to the full range of Sky TV content without a need for any equipment installation.
Check out the latest streaming subscription deals from NOW TV.
Virgin Media installations
If you’re switching to Virgin Media from any of the previously-mentioned providers, then you might need a new connection installed in your home unless it has previously been installed in your property and there is a Virgin Media wall socket still in place.
At the time of writing, Virgin Media has stated that, as a critical service provider, they will continue to carry out in-home installations where necessary. Where possible, Virgin Media will ask customers to self-install where possible, sending out QuickStart packs so that there is no need for an engineer visit.
QuickStart setup is currently available to approximately 60% of customers, and Virgin Media will not be charging any additional fees for this service at this time.
If an engineer visit is required, Virgin Media has also implemented some precautionary measures for its engineering team to follow.
- Checking with their technicians to confirm they don’t have flu-like symptoms, aren’t self-isolating, and haven’t been to high-risk areas.
- Sending a text three days before the visit to confirm if anyone living at the property has any flu-like symptoms or has been asked to self-isolate. If you respond ‘yes’ they will reschedule your installation for two weeks later.
- Asking the same questions on the day of the visit by phone, roughly 30 minutes before the engineer arrives.
The Virgin Media website currently states the following: “We’ve implemented strict hygiene and distancing measures in our retail stores, including providing extra hand sanitiser gels and wipes, to help keep our people and customers safe while we provide product and service information and support.”
Three Mobile Broadband
Mobile network operator Three, which runs a range of mobile broadband services, has made its 4G Home Broadband offer available as a rolling month contract, to ease the pressure on households who are struggling with their current broadband speed during COVID-19.
The deal can be purchased online and the 4G hub (which you can self-install) will be delivered the next working day.
At the moment, internet service providers are still connecting new customers to their services, albeit with some limitations on which products are available to order.
If you’re looking to save money on a better deal or get a better, more reliable broadband service, then check out our broadband Network Checker to see which services are available at your address.