Large Cable TV and Home Phone companies are only too happy to answer consumers who ask, “What is bundling?” Most suppliers of Cable TV, High Speed Internet and other communication services offer “bundles,” often at reduced prices compared to what you would pay if you bought the services individually.
In addition to Cable TV and Internet, some bundles include Home Phone service, long distance services and mobile phone service. Offering such bundles is very profitable but, if you want to be sure to get the best deal, you have to carefully evaluate what services you want, what is being offered, how much it costs and what the alternatives are. Bundles are popular and convenient but, as the Public Utility Commission of Texas they can have disadvantages.
What is Bundling? Let’s Talk Cost!
The main selling point for bundles is the reduced cost. As you add services to your bundle, the provider offers additional discounts. It’s less expensive to supply several services because the provider only has to administer one account, send out one invoice, monitor a single payment and provide technical support to a single address. He passes some of these savings on to you by offering the bundles at lower cost.
The savings are attractive as long as you need all the bundled services. If the bundle includes a lot of television channels you don’t watch or telephone services you don’t need, it may be cheaper to get individual basic services at lower cost or get a smaller bundle that includes fewer services. You have to check what you’re paying for and compare the prices for separate services from different suppliers to get the best deal.
While most people find it convenient to have a single bill, you have to check your contract for the detailed conditions. Many providers sign you up for bundled services for a fixed duration, typically one or two years. The key is to verify whether you can change the bundle and whether you can cancel the service.
Sometimes providers wish to lock you into an expensive plan for an extended period with no possibility of making changes. Others charge you a fixed fee. You may be locked into making the payments even if you don’t use some of the services. Often contracts renew automatically after the first two or three years. Ideally you want a plan where you can make changes for free, cancel with a reasonable termination fee and have the right to no-contract service after the initial time period.
Unfortunately, many locations have a limited number of service providers. Ideal contracts may not be available for bundles and sometimes signing up for individual services is the better solution.
The bundled service is the same as when you purchase the individual service from the provider, but bundling exposes you to additional risks. If the bundle provider has technical problems on the network, all your bundled services may fail. If you get all your communication services from one bundle, you may be without Internet or telephone for an extended period. If that’s not acceptable, you have to make sure you have at least two different suppliers for your communication needs.
Many people keep a land line just for this purpose. They often don’t use it much and have only the least expensive service, but it has the advantage of high reliability and it usually works even during a power failure. If you don’t want a land line, you can keep your mobile phone service with a separate supplier. That way you’re unlikely to be cut off completely.
Sometimes, a person with service from a provider they’ve used for years asks, “What is bundling?” If you have existing individual services that are high quality and with which you are satisfied, it’s a good idea to check on the quality of the bundled services you are thinking of getting. Sometimes a provider is good at one kind of service, but doesn’t do the others very well.
Sometimes the provider you sign with isn’t the one providing some of the bundled services. The best way to check is to find neighbors who have the bundle and ask how satisfied they are. While you can get some valuable feedback from bundle customers who live further away, service quality is often affected by local conditions.
Once you decide to get a bundle of services, you’re better off taking it slowly. If you sign up for a couple of services at first, your provider will be happy to add more services once you decide the quality and service characteristics are adequate. You may even get special deals. On the other hand, if you sign up for a large bundle, your provider will often charge you penalties if you cancel services with which you are not satisfied.
Photo Credit: Living in Monrovia