UK broadband is in a state of flux. Fixed-line providers like BT and Virgin are expanding their services to deliver super-fast broadband into homes. Elsewhere, operators including EE, Vodafone and Three are cementing their mobile backbone to meet the UK public's insatiable thirst for data over the airwaves instead. A small number of companies have tried to find the middle ground, the space where broadband and mobile networks meet, but none have ultimately succeeded. A new service called Relish wants to change that, and it believes it has the credentials to win where others haven't. 14 Photos
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Relish is a mobile provider with a difference. Its primary goal is to serve Londoners with fast broadband "without the wires." As you might have guessed, it's relying on 4G connections to deliver internet to customers, but unlike rivals EE or Three, it places no restrictions on the amount of data you can consume. Because it's a mobile provider, there's no need for a landline, meaning you won't have to wait for an engineer to install routing kit and activate your connections. It also means you don't have to pay monthly line rental or sign up for lengthy contracts.
Unlike rivals EE or Three, it places no restrictions on the amount of data you can consume
How does it work? Relish, which launches today in select London postcodes (we're told it spans from Kensington in the west to Canary Wharf in the east), lets you call or order online and have a custom-couriered (on a colourful motorbike) welcome pack delivered to you the very next day. Plug the Huawei-suppied TD-LTE router in and you're immediately online. The home service runs completely on Relish's own spectrum (owned by UK Broadband), delivering what the company calls "fibre-fast" broadband. That connection is said to average 30Mbps, which isn't as fast as many true fibre services, but Relish says those speeds won't be affected by data limits or evening slowdowns, which heavily-contested fixed-line providers regularly employ.
Make no mistake, the service is not for everyone. Relish itself says it's aiming for specific segments that "haven't had enough choice to buy broadband to suit their lifestyle." London's young professionals, renters and people who want more flexibility are the Relish's key demographics. Because all the service needs is a power connection, customers can take their box wherever they go (depending on Relish's coverage). Monthly contract's start at £20, but you will have to buy the router for £50. Sign up for a 12-month contract and the router is thrown in free of charge.
Monthly contracts start at £20, but you will have to buy the router for £50
The home service is just one of four packages that Relish offers. There's also a mobile broadband package which operates similarly to a MiFi from Three. Depending on the package you buy, you will be supplied with a Huawei-supplied mobile router called the Pocket Hub (which normally costs £35) which works nationwide. While it will take advantage of Relish's own networks in the city, the company is using Three's HSPA+ 3G networks as a fallback, letting you obtain connectivity anywhere in the UK. Prices start at £10 for 1GB and you'll receive a £5 discount if you already own the home product. However, any data you don't use in a 30-day period will be wiped off your allowance.
Relish is targeting businesses too. Its standard business offering is designed to cater for 20 employees, mainly in companies that are on the move. Startups, pop-up shops, coffee shops and companies moving offices are what Relish wants to cater for, by offering a number of additional services that aren't normally reserved for regular customers (like static IPs). Bigger companies with very high data requirements can apply for the company's dedicated business service, which offers speeds up to 1Gbps and is installed within 10 days. Relish didn't say much about this package, suggesting it wants to scale for consumers and smaller businesses first.
Relish is targeting businesses too. Startups, pop-up shops, coffee shops and companies moving offices...
It's very easy for Relish to overstep the mark and oversell a service that is limited to specific regions in London, so it's employing a number of checks to ensure customers aren't dissapointed with the service they receive. The company is using high-frequency bands (Bands 42/43, or 3.5-3.8GHz if you're interested) to deliver high speeds in densely-populated areas. Because it runs a pure data service and doesn't lay voice transmission on top, you'll only get the service that it's specifically designed to offer. If you enter your postcode on the Relish website and you fall outside of the supported areas, it simply won't sell broadband to you.
Relish says that it's only using 1/6th of the spectrum it owns in London, allowing it to expand its service city-wide in the future. There's no date for an expansion to other cities, so if you live outside London, you'll only be able to sign-up to Relish's roaming offering. If the company's postcode checker says you'll get service, but you live in a basement or somewhere normally outside of the reach of mobile signal, Relish will let you test its service as part of a 14-day trial and send it back if you're not happy.