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Rebel without a clause: ISP promises broadband with no contract

We don't need to trap customers to force loyalty, says boss

A new ISP started by former BT execs claims to offer UK broadband customers a better deal with no contracts or installation fees, and "a Wi-Fi service that actually works."

Rebel Internet officially launched today and, like the vast majority of ISPs, is selling a fiber broadband service via the Openreach network, which means it is available nationally to over 29 million households. So what is different about it?

The company told us that its service starts at £35 per month (that's about $42 or €40 for non-UK readers), which is not the cheapest broadband available, but Rebel said that there were no installation fees and no contract for the customer to sign.

If a customer lives in a fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) area, that £35 per month gets them the "Rebel Fibre" product, offering promised speeds up to 80Mbps. However, if they live in an area where Openreach has built out fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), the starting offering is "Rebel 115" which, it told us, has speeds up to 115Mbps for the same price.

Rebel also said that if a customer buys the Rebel Fibre product, but their area is then upgraded to support FTTP, it will upgrade them to the Rebel 115 service for no charge.

The company makes much of claims that other broadband providers trap customers into long-term contracts "laden with onerous terms and hidden price rises." In contrast, Rebel said it offers transparent pricing with no contracts and will never make above-inflation price rises.

"We believe in our product and deliver a superior customer experience, so we don't need to trap customers into onerous contracts to force loyalty," Rebel chief executive Tucker George said in a statement.

Rebel also claims that it offers a better Wi-Fi experience than other broadband providers to ensure coverage around a customer's home. This involves the use of "SuperPods" with Tri-band frequency support that plug straight into a wall socket, similar to the Wi-Fi extender devices that can be bought off the shelf.

But the company claims that its SuperPods continuously monitor network performance and dynamically distribute traffic onto non-interfering Wi-Fi channels. Customers can also set different access profiles for different family members, including parental control settings, Rebel said.

Many customers have a problem with their internet because of their Wi-Fi network rather than their broadband service being too slow, said the company. It is typically a weak Wi-Fi network that prevents customers from using Spotify in the kitchen, for example.

This is what other broadband companies don't want customers to know, Rebel said, claiming that they instead prefer to upsell customers into a faster and more costly broadband connection.

Rebel said it is also making this technology available to customers who are stuck on a contract with another broadband provider as a "Wi-Fi as a service" offering for a £15 per month subscription fee.

All of this sounds encouraging, and media & telco analyst Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight told us that while there are numerous providers offering fiber packages for under £30 per month, these all require a customer to sign up to a contract, so Rebel Internet appears to be unique in that respect.

However, he also said that Rebel is entering an already crowded marketplace, where there are too many players chasing too few subscriber pounds.

"Is this really what the UK market needs right now, another player in an already hugely fragmented landscape? While competition might seem healthy from a retail perspective, can a market support so many players?" he asked. ®

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