Carphone Warehouse has been overwhelmed by the demand for its "free" broadband offer from TalkTalk which has signed up 340,000 customers in eight weeks, twice the company's forecast. Chief executive Charles Dunstone admitted that customers are being kept on hold as its 1,200 British call centre staff struggle to cope with the flood of inquiries.
Charles Dunstone commented
I don't want them to have to wait at all. I hate the fact that people are queueing and I have got people working flat out. What has surprised us is the success of it. More people resented how much they paid for broadband than we ever imagined.
Orange is planning to offer a broadband TV service in Britain this year to compete with a similar service planned by BT and BSkyB's converged TV and internet product, due to launch over the summer.
Confirming the launch of a "free" broadband offering, Orange's UK head of broadband, Eric Abensur, said Orange TV would include the digital terrestrial TV channels from Freeview, seven-day catch-up TV and video on demand. Customers will get a set-top box they can plug into their television and broadband connection, which includes a personal video recorder.
BSkyB launched its second digital landgrab in a decade yesterday as it committed £400m to signing up 3 million broadband subscribers by 2010.
The pay-TV group confirmed that it will launch a "free" broadband service, matching offers from mobile phone operator Orange and Carphone Warehouse.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority is expected to upset those plans today by ruling that Carphone's service cannot be described as "free" because it includes a connection fee and line rental. BSkyB's three-tiered Sky Broadband service could run into the same trouble because customers will have to sign up to a pay-TV package starting at £15 per month, if they are not subscribers already.
So is free really free? As they say there is no such thing as a free lunch.