Utilities & Phones
There are a number of different suppliers and therefore a wide range of prices and services available. Often, utilities will be set up through the landlord or estate agent.
It is important to check the water, gas and electricity meters when you move in (or out) so your payments correspond to your usage. Also, assure the contract and bills are registered to the correct name and address. In case of a couple, both names should be registered so that both people can contact the suppliers. Moreover, utility bills are considered a valid proof of address so having both names on them is useful.
Changing suppliers is easy as gas and electricity come through the same pipes and cables whatever the provider, therefore only your bill will come from the new provider.
Electricity, Gas and Water
Many companies provide both electricity and gas and offer contracts for the supply of both fuels, often called ‘dual fuel’, which may result in a discount. You can also get a discount if you use Direct Debit for paying your bill.
The electricity supply in the UK is 220/240 volts. This is suitable for all electrical equipment with a rated power consumption of up to 3,000 watts. Appliances from European countries can be used with a three-prong adaptor. From countries where the voltage is 110 volts (this includes North America) you will need to use a transformer unless the product specifically states that it has dual voltage 110 –240 volts.
If the electricity has been disconnected by the previous tenant or owner you need to have it reconnected and you should allow at least two days for this to happen after signing a contract with a provider. There is usually a charge for the connection which may also be true for gas.
Thames Water is the supplier covering much of the Greater London area. To find other suppliers check www.water.org.uk/consumers/find-your-supplier.
In the UK most companies offer a choice of metered or unmetered service. Individual companies will assist each customer to make the decision as to which bill is best for them. Consumers usually see metering as a fairer way of paying for water; everyone pays a set amount for their water services and then you pay for what you use. If properties do not have a water meter an amount is charged according to geographical location and house type. Thames Water website offers a price comparison table to help you decide if it would be beneficial to install a meter.
All TV in the UK is now digital. Services are available via an aerial (terrestrial TV), satellite, cable and through broadband.
There are a number of providers in the UK that offer packages that include TV, broadband, telephone, video on demand and free phone calls packages. There are websites that compare the different packages available in your area. Not all services are available in all areas. Also, some landlords may not allow you to put a satellite receiver on your roof.
The UK Video Standard is PAL. An NTSC (American) or other system (even PAL-M or PAL N) will not work in the UK..
- Freeview (www.freeview.co.uk) is the only digital terrestrial television service offering more than 60 subscription-free television channels, digital radio and interactive services via an aerial. All new television sets include Freeview as standard, high-definition channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are also available if you have a Freeview HD television or a digital box.
- Cable TV is a subscription for digital television service, normally bundled with a phone line and broadband. Different from Freeview, which requires a roof-top aerial, cable TV is delivered via a fibre optic cable underground. Because the cables run underground into your home, you need to live in a cabled area. Check with providers first to find out if you can receive their services.
- Satellite television involves the signals being received via an outdoor parabolic antenna (satellite dish) and a decoder. Satellite television provides a wide range of channels and services, especially to geographic areas without terrestrial or cable television. Sky TV is the dominant satellite provider with a subscription service and the largest number of channels.
- Internet television (or online television) is the digital distribution of television content via the public Internet (which also carries other types of data), as opposed to dedicated terrestrial television, cable television and satellite television systems which only carry video.
Best sport provider? It depends on what matches and events you want to watch.
BT Sports channels including ESPN, SKY Sports with the exclusive F1 Channel, and the digital TV subscription Premier Sports cover every possible sport.
You need to be covered by a TV Licence if you watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or live on an online TV service. This applies to any provider you use and any device, including a TV, computer, tablet, mobile phone, games console, digital box or any other device. Live TV means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.
If you only ever watch on demand programmes, you do not need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on live TV.
Broadband & internet
Getting a new broadband set up can generally take up to two weeks. If your property does not currently have an active BT phone line, a new one will need to be installed to deliver your broadband service. Whichever provider you are using (with the exception of Virgin Media broadband), this work has to be carried out by a BT Openreach engineer and can take around 15 working days.
If you’re joining Virgin Media broadband and your property is not yet connected to the Virgin network, a cable will need to be installed from the street cabinet to your property. The engineer will talk you through the process when they visit and there is a remote chance it could involve digging up your driveway to lay the cables underground.
If you rent the property or share freehold of the land with neighbours, it is worth checking you have permission for this to happen before you contact Virgin.
Most providers offer bundle deals for landline, broadband, TV and mobile phones. Check their websites or comparison websites.
Before you decide on a telephone service, it may help to do a little research to decide which type of residential service will suit you. There are packages for different levels of usage, free calls at evenings, weekends or to specific numbers and international numbers. Otherwise, all calls are charged, including local ones.
Whether you need a new phone or just a UK number, you can choose between many mobile operators and networks. Large retailers like Carphone Warehouse often offer the best deals.
To choose the right plan you should consider:
- pre paid (pay as you go) or contract
- pricing and services
To buy a pay-as-you-go you don’t need a bank account or credit history; it can be slightly more expensive than a contract, but it is a good way to start if you don’t have a UK bank account yet, and it can be later be moved to a contract, keeping the same number. All you have to do is visit any of the mobile phone shops.
If you prefer a contract, shop around for the best deals on UK mobile plans. Mobile phone service providers in the UK are very competitive and are always offering deals to customers that undercut their rivals.
To apply for UK mobile plans on a contract you will be asked to provide:
- Proof of identity
- Proof of address in UK
- Bank details
- Proof of employment (or acceptance letter)
Coverage is also very important as sometimes there are areas of London where the signal of a network is absent or very poor, so check the network coverage in your area.
The offer is wide and understanding the pricing plans of the various providers can be a challenge. Each operator offers several different plans and options and comparisons are difficult. Comparison websites (Compare the Market, Confused.com, USwitch, or Handset Expert ) are very useful.