Consumers might be losing out by bundling together services such as broadband, home phone, digital television and mobile phone, it has been claimed.
Around 40 per cent of UK broadband households now receive their internet as part of a bundle. But Chris Eagle, commercial manager of specialist firm BroadbandChoices, said: "Converging your services in this way could get you a cheaper up front subscription but you could end up compromising your broadband speed or getting ripped off on call charges.
"Consumers need to take their usage into account and then look at the overall costs once all their needs have been met."
Ofcom asked respondents to choose from four factors affecting their choice of ISP and bundling was cited as important as price at 27 per cent, internet speed came out on top with 29 per cent, while customer service only got ten per cent.
There is no doubt that the lower subscription price, single billing and one-point customer service are proving attractive as more people bundle their home phone line, broadband connection, digital television and even mobile phone.
However, referring to the problems that marred the launch of TalkTalk and Orange's broadband services – where according to BroadbandChoices availability wasn't as high as was claimed – Mr Eagle said: "People need to consider the quality of the service they will receive if they go for the cheapest option.
"In a bid to remain competitive some companies have added services to their repertoire that they can't cope with, and it is the consumers who have suffered.
"People don't realise how important customer service is until they sign up for a service that they're not satisfied with," he added.
Ofcom's Digital Progress report on the broadband market showed that more than 50 per cent of of UK adults now have broadband at home – up from 39 per cent a year ago and a seven-fold increase over the last four years.
More than 13 million UK homes and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now connected to broadband, compared with 9.9 million a year earlier and just 330,000 in 2001.
Many new internet users are now choosing to go straight to broadband rather than first taking dial-up. According to Ofcom’s research, 23 per cent of people with no internet at home said they were likely to connect in the next year with 76 per cent of those saying they would opt for broadband.
The report also showed that broadband prices are continuing to fall. Speeds of up to 2 Mbit/s were available for #15 a month in 2006, down from #50 in 2003. In 2006 a number of communications providers started offering a broadband service at no extra cost to consumers who took other services in a bundle.
Broadband speeds continue to rise. The estimated average headline connection speed was 3.8 Mbit/s at the end of 2006, up from 1.6 Mbit/s at the end of 2005.
But despite the increases in speed, almost half (48 per cent) of residential consumers were unaware of their headline connection speed in February.
Ofcom’s research also showed that 21 per cent of all UK adults owned a Wi-Fi enabled laptop in February 2007 and over one third of those had used public Wi-Fi hotspots to access the internet. In September 2006 there were around 12,000 public hotspots in the UK, a 32 per cent increase on the previous year.