Is Direct Save broadband any good?
IN among the clamour about cheap broadband deals from the big providers, it's easy to overlook the smaller budget ISPs.
Direct Save Telecom are one such company, offering discounted broadband, line rental and phone calls - and the option to go contract free.
They resell BT, so they're available pretty much everywhere, although like Plusnet they use geographic pricing, so customers in less competitive areas will pay more.
They are, however, one of the few companies not to carry out credit checks on prospective customers, making them a useful option for people with less than ideal credit histories.
And as well as offering budget broadband, they also supply ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband of up to 300Mb in certain areas.
We'll start by looking at the usual broadband packages, but the impatient can jump ahead:
- To find out about the phone service, click here.
- Those interested in ultrafast broadband to the home, click here.
- Afraid of commitment? Find out about the no contract options here.
- And we round things off with a look at what no credit check means here.
Direct Save sell standard broadband of up to 17Mb, and fibre broadband in both 38Mb and 76Mb varieties.
The standard broadband is the real budget option; prices for their fibre are pretty similar to those charged by other providers.
Here are the main packages:
Each of these deals is available on 12 month terms - but while the up to 17Mb package comes with a free router, those getting one of the fibre deals will either need to have their own already or add £35 to their setup costs to have one sent to them.
There is a cheaper 17Mb package available for those willing to sign up for 18 months:
|Package||Broadband||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Broadband Deal Plus + Pay Per Use calls||Up to 17Mb
But Direct Save's standard broadband is also available without a contract, on 28-day rolling terms - albeit at a higher price. There's more on that option below.
Out of area prices
As mentioned above, Direct Save use geographic pricing to keep their costs as low as possible for the majority of their customers.
Like Plusnet, they charge more for those who are served by the least competitive exchanges - known as Market A - but they do offer a slightly cheaper up to 17Mb package for those willing to commit for 18 months rather than 12.
Note too that it's possible to get fibre out of area, but it depends whether the exchanges themselves are set up.
If 100GB isn't enough, users can upgrade to an unlimited allowance for another £12 a month - but it's worth bearing in mind that there are better value out of area providers, John Lewis Broadband for example.
Phone calls and line rental
Anyone wanting Direct Save broadband must also take Direct Save's line rental, which is included in the prices listed above.
Direct Save offer a couple of upfront line rental deals - but they're not available with their broadband packages: only those who want a landline and nothing else can benefit.
What it does mean is that anyone who's not so keen on the broadband but likes the cheaper line rental can look for another broadband provider - such as Zen (more here) or Plusnet (reviewed here) who both offer broadband to customers without insisting they take the phone line too.
Customers willing to pay for 12 months upfront face a one-off charge of £162 - equivalent to £13.50 a month.
Considering that it's usually the case that the longer we're willing to sign up, the bigger the discount available, it seems a little odd that those opting for the 18-month landline contract will pay more - £15.95 a month.
Customers can add evening and weekend calls to UK landlines (01, 02, and 03 numbers) for £2.95 a month, or anytime calls to UK landlines for £6.75 a month.
Their out of allowance call charges are pretty competitive as well. The connection fee is 15.5p per call; calls to UK landlines then cost 9.5p per minute. Calls to mobiles cost from 15p per minute.
With the exception of 080 numbers which are free, the access charge for calls to 08, 09, and 118 numbers is 20p per minute.
There's also an International Option for a further £1.50 a month, which cuts the cost of calling abroad by at least 40% and up to 90% compared to BT's standard prices.
But for some of the most popular call destinations, this might not actually be necessary. Calls to these locations - including India, Pakistan and China - already cost from 60% to 90% less than they would with BT.
Finally, anyone wanting extra services such as call waiting, divert, and anonymous call reject will pay extra. Most features, including caller display and basic voicemail, cost £3.15 a month.
In fact the only call feature service they offer free is 1471.
Even faster broadband
In September 2014, Direct Save announced they were entering the FTTP market - offering speeds of up to 300Mb to certain new-build developments.
The number of locations where such speeds are available is so small, they're individually named on the Direct Save site.
But for those who live in one of the almost 80 England-only developments, there are four speeds available:
Each of these deals comes with a minimum contract of 12 months.
While the monthly prices are competitive enough, note the upfront cost. All FTTP customers will need to pay £8.95 for router delivery - and then they'll pay either £70 for new line activation, or a reduced price of £25 if the FTTP line is already connected and just needs transferring.
Adding extra calls to each of these deals costs the same as it does for standard and FTTC customers.
There are a few other companies offering FTTP broadband, including Hyperoptic (reviewed here).
At this point in time, none of the FTTP providers are really in a position to offer "budget" connections - but compared to the biggest ultrafast provider in town, Virgin, they're still quite competitive.
No contract broadband
As mentioned above, the commitment-shy among us have an ally in Direct Save.
The no-contract option is offered as a rolling 28-day service, with just 28 days' notice required should users want to head elsewhere.
Monthly charges are as follows:
|Package||Broadband||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Non Contract 20GB Broadband + Pay Per Use calls||Up to 17Mb
|No Contract Unlimited Broadband + Pay Per Use calls||Up to 17Mb
Note the data limit for the cheaper of the two packages.
It used to be the case that customers who needed more than 20GB of data could buy extra for the month, at £5 per 5GB - but that option has now been removed, so those who find themselves getting close to their limit will be nudged towards upgrading to the unlimited package for £5 more per month.
We've a guide to how much data is enough here.
No credit check
As mentioned at the start, Direct Save don't carry out any kind of credit check on potential customers during sign up.
The only requirement before they'll start the phone and broadband service is for customers to pay their first invoice upfront.
Direct Save bill everyone on the 7th of each month, so the first invoice is made up of the partial line rental, broadband charges, and any setup or activation fees for the month of activation, plus the first full month's service charges.
Anyone taking broadband should therefore factor in upfront costs of £33.90, as well as the first full month's service charge - a total of at least £53.85 on top of the partial month's costs.
Meanwhile, whether because of a house move or a disconnection, Direct Save will reactivate phone lines free of charge, subject to a £50 security payment and a minimum 18-month contract.
That £50 money is credited back to the user's account once the service has begun.
However, while the lack of credit check and a fairly reasonable security payment might be good news for people who have less than ideal credit records, the stipulation that bills can only be paid via direct debit may still cause some issues.
Not so cheap
Where Direct Save's budget image falters a little is in terms of adding extras.
We've already mentioned that while calls themselves are competitively priced, calling features such as voicemail and caller ID are £3.15 each per month.
Unlike some of the other providers who charge for such features, Direct Save don't offer discounts for bundling more than a couple.
Anyone giving fewer than 28 days notice of their intention to end the service must pay an administration fee of £19.50, on top of any early termination fees - £5 for their phone line, £10 for broadband, or £15 for fibre.
In short, it'll cost £22.95 a month to keep the service, or £15 a month until the supposed end of the contract to cancel it.
This keeps them in line with Ofcom recommendations that early termination charges shouldn't cost more than continuing with the service.
Anyone who's paid for line rental upfront will find that's non-refundable, and still be liable for the £5 a month charge.
However, Direct Save will also ask for compensation to cover the cost of activation and the router - at £69.50 per phone line installed or activated, and £34.95 for the router.
All in all
As with other budget providers there are stings in the tail.
But Direct Save offer an affordable way of getting online, and some really good value phone options, for everyone from those with shaky credit histories to people in ultrafast housing developments.
There are very few companies attempting to do both - and we'll be watching to see how they fare.