AOL broadband: a look back

aol

QUIETLY, without fanfare, AOL broadband's sign up website started redirecting to TalkTalk in May 2014.

AOL broadband is no longer available to new customers.

TalkTalk had long owned AOL home broadband in the UK - read our full review here - and evidently felt that recent efforts to revive AOL, the deals were relaunched in 2011, slimming down what were once an excessively complicated muddle of packages, had failed.

This was our former AOL broadband review, we're preserving it here at a look back at the ISP.

AOL broadband

For years, AOL broadband deals hovered around mid market: neither the cheapest nor the fastest around.

Their offers were basic, with small prices and a small download allowance to match.

Speeds

AOL were far from the fastest around.

They were one of the very few providers still to advertise an up to 8Mb connection as standard.

The faster up to 24Mb broadband deal was only available when customers took AOL line rental.

In addition, independent speed data wasn't available for AOL because it's too small to be included in Ofcom's full independent tests.

However, looking at similar providers we surmised that the average 8Mb customer would actually receive speeds of around 3-4Mb while the average 24Mb customer would actually see around 7-9Mb.

Those were standard speeds for a mid market ADSL provider.

Unlimited usage

AOL moved from a 10GB monthly usage cap to offering unlimited downloads across all packages.

They did operate a fair use policy and manage traffic - however both these policies looked reasonable and fair.

AOL said that they would use traffic management on non-time critical traffic such as Peer-to-peer during busy periods, which is 6pm to midnight weekdays and 6pm to midnight at weekends for those in AOL's network area.

For those outside of AOL's main network area, traffic management applied during the hours of 3pm to midnight weekdays and 3pm to midnight at weekends.

AOL hadn't mentioned that there are any soft download limits or speed restrictions in place, so their take on unlimited certainly looked promising.

LLU provider

Finally, AOL were an LLU broadband provider, meaning they'd installed their own systems in some of BT's exchanges and where they have done so they can offer lower prices and faster speeds.

However, LLU providers don't "unbundle" every exchange in the UK and this creates a network divide: those customers outside of AOL's network paid an extra £5 a month.

Everything else is identical - including the broadband speed, monthly download usage, contract options, set up costs, free wireless router and choice of call plans - but this is well worth double checking.

Owned by TalkTalk

As we mentioned above, the AOL broadband is owned by TalkTalk and we assume that their network is now not being run separately to that of TalkTalk and that, in fact, the two are now identical services.

Calls and/or line rental

As noted above, AOL's fastest broadband was only available to those within AOL's network area who also take the provider's line rental.

Unusually, there was a mid point between taking AOL's line rental and going elsewhere: the 'calls' option.

In that package, customers would pay BT (or whoever) for line rental, they'd just pay AOL for any additional calls they made.

A connection fee applied to all chargeable AOL calls, which included numbers that weren't geographic such as those starting 084 and 087. Calls to those numbers were still fairly high cost.

Having AOL Talk (either calls or line rental) also meant that it was free to call AOL broadband customer services.

More information on phone options is available in our full line rental guide.

Prices

As we've noted above, while AOL offered fairly basic broadband deals they offered them at a mid market price.

Check our broadband under £10 guide for an up to date look at budget providers.

User abused

It's also worth noting, because it's undeniable, that AOL had negative user reviews.

As we've seen throughout this review, AOL were a big name that have somehow managed to squander it on basic, non market-leading broadband.

That also seeped into their customer service which was middling at best.

All in all

AOL was a bit of a mystery: a budget broadband provider that would have anyone with a budget to stick to reaching for a cheaper, better deal.

Before they left the market, AOL deals weren't even coming within the top ten cheapest broadband deals.

That said, the provider did have some good points: their deals were simple and no nonsense and line rental was cheaper than BT's.

Comments

1
7 February 2014
brasco1

I have been with AOL since 1999. 3 weeks ago I renewed the contract and I got for free a new wireless Huawei router with a USB slot. I have tested the speed and have reached 12.3Mbps top speed which is pretty great for a standard home broadband. I am not a computer expert but it seems to me that most of the complaints about AOL are due to lack of basic knowledge. Since 1999 I changed 3 routers reinstalled the software a couple of times. You can download for free AOL 9.7 based on explorer 11, a top notch home broadband service. London South East.

2
15 November 2012
Dave

I have been with AOL since 2000. I live in a rural area so do not have access to fibre/cable. I have a Broadband Only package. I get a download speed, at all times of the day and night, of 17Mbps, upload is 0.85Mbps (tested via WIFI). I have Unlimited downloads and pay £8.31 a month. My line rental is with BT.

I work at home and depend on my broadband connection and I have never had any problems in all the years I have been with them. I have never needed to call the help desk. I call the Cancellations Department every year as they offer the best deals to renew for another 12 months.

I watch many movies/TV programmes from Netfix in HD and also download loads of HD movies from Sky On Demand. I have Spotify playing at 320Kbs for hours each day - no problems at all.

I do not use an AOL router, I have never received one from them nor do I want one - I use an Apple Airport Extreme/Draytek Vigor 120 which works very well.

3
15 December 2011
Andrew

Hi,

I too have been with AOL almost 10 years (started with dialup), I have to say the service has not always been what it should have but I've always managed to resolve problems with them.

One of their biggest blunders was when they stopped free helpline calls, which I feel was a big plus for them and countless people joined because of this. I received a letter in early Dec 2011 to say that due to some equipment being installed in my exchange I would be able to get speeds up to 24Mb (snigger) but on the plus side I'm near the exchange and currently through the day get 5Mb+ on an up to 8Mb connection, but during the evening and weekends my connection dies and I can go as low as 500Kbps, which is terrible.

In conclusion I am not in any contract with AOL at this time and I intend to see what this so called faster connection comes to and if it's as bad in the evening and weekends as it is now then I'm afraid I will be leaving AOL. As I said before, it's their call centres where they fail in customer services, when you ring you get a script reading foreign lady or gentleman that most of the time personally I can't understand, I consider myself to be very good with computers and still get asked ridiculous questions and I have probably been with AOL longer than they have, anyway rant over!

4
21 November 2011
mark

I've been with AOL broadband for 10 years now - but enough is enough. Speeds are not even remotely near what they advertise (despite having their phone) - ping/DL rates are staggeringly bad. At the moment ping is 167, and DL is 0.67 - not bad for a supposed 24Mb service.

I can't even tell what time of day/night the lines get bad - but it's been nearly every day for three months now - with the usual fobbing off to an Indian helpline to test yet again my 3 routers and 8 adsl cables, despite the fact that pingplotter shows the problem is two hops down the line (at last check).

Personal opinion - avoid them like the plague - AOL used to be brilliant - but for several years now it's been substandard to say the least.

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