Information about the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) to telecom services in Northern Ireland, including digital TV services, such as Sky.
The information on this page was last updated on 1 April 2021.
Although The Consumer Council currently has no direct statutory role in relation to Broadband, Telecoms, Mobile, and Pay-per-view TV services, we are keen to see where we can help consumers, who are experiencing problems at this difficult time.
New commitments from Telecoms providers for consumers during COVID-19
- All providers have committed to working with customers who find it difficult to pay their bill as a result of COVID-19 to ensure that they are treated fairly and appropriately supported.
- All providers will remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.
- All providers have agreed to offer some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported. For example, some of these packages include data boosts at low prices and free calls from their landline or mobile.
- All providers will ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out.
Staying connected during the coronavirus
As broadband and mobile networks are under increased demand because of the coronavirus, Ofcom has published seven tips to help you stay connected, which is especially important for everyone who is working from home over the coming weeks.
Click here to view all seven helpful tips.
Broadband and telecom providers
Many broadband and telecoms providers have said they can cope with increase in demand as many more people stay at home.
If you would you would like to raise an issue with a telecoms provider, you must contact your provider in the first instance.
Guidance on making a complaint is provided by Ofcom on the Ofcom website or alternatively contact The Consumer Council who can give you advice on this complaint process:
- Telephone: 0800 1216022
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates to our stores
BT stores in Northern Ireland are closed. Check the BT storefinder to make sure your local store is open.
BT Broadband usage policy
BT has removed all caps on all broadband packages so every customer has unlimited data as a results of coronavirus. All customers who currently have limited broadband packages will automatically get unlimited data. This is a permanent change, BT will no longer have limited broadband packages.
NHS workers get unlimited data
NHS workers get unlimited data. This offer is now closed to new registrations. If you registered on or before 17 December 2020, you’ll continue to get unlimited data until 30 June 2021.
Access to NHS online, NHS COVID-19 app and 111
BT mobile customers can now access NHS online and the NHS Covid-19 app without using any of the data in their plan – even if they’ve run out of data completely. Calling 111 remains free for customers across the UK.
BT landline only customers, BT are removing out of bundle charges for the most critical services, like UK landline and mobile calls, and placing a £5 per month cap so they can make the essential calls they need to keep in touch, without worrying about their bill.
BT know this is already a stressful time for customers worried about their finances, so they put in place a dedicated team to support customers that need extra help with their bills. If a customer contacts them with money worries related to coronavirus, they will work out what works best for them.
From the end of January, all BT mobile customers can access BBC Bitesize without using any of their data.
Unlimited mobile data
BT are working with the Department of Education to offer eligible children unlimited mobile data for online learning. The scheme starts at the end of January 2021 and runs until July 2021. Please ask your school for details.
Free public Wi-Fi
BT are helping eligible pupils get online through over 5 million BT Wi-Fi hotspots. They will be offering Wi-Fi vouchers to schools and their charity partners, helping children stay in touch with their teachers. Each Wi-Fi voucher code will allow access to the internet on up to three devices at a time, for free, until the end of July 2021.
Most repairs can be done outside your home, and are going ahead as normal. Repairs where the engineer enters your home will now only happen if you lose all service. Installation and engineer visits might be cancelled or delayed if an engineer needs to enter your home for an extended period of time.
More information is available on the BT website.
EE stores in Northern Ireland are closed. Unless we are in a National lockdown, EE stores will open where local restrictions allow. Check to see if your local store is open.
EE is giving NHS workers on an EE pay monthly mobile plan unlimited data until June 2021. More details are available on Coronavirus: Getting the most from EE.
Support to access educational sites
EE are working to give all schoolkids the ability to access Oak National Academy and BBC Bitesize without using up their data.
Available to all BT Mobile, EE and Plusnet customers on pay monthly mobile contracts and pay as you go. Available only while schools remain closed, no registration required. EE will be removing all data charges for access to BBC Bitesize while all schools are closed across the nation.
EE have made it free to visit the NHS online, and to use the NHS COVID-19 app. This means you won’t use data (even if you’ve run out). Calls to NHS 111 are free too.
More information is available on the EE website.
Home schooling Support
We’re supporting home schooling families by providing 100GB of free data through the Department for Education. To take advantage of this, members will have to register with their school, trust or local authorities and meet the criteria. It is all explained on the government website. If you're eligible, your school should be able to make an application on your behalf. Terms apply.
Calls to the NHS 111 help line have always been free. And now you can also visit the NHS website without using your data, along with a number of other important websites that many people will rely on for support during this time. More information available on the giffgaff website.
Calling hospital 087 numbers
From 5 November 2020 if you call 087 numbers owned by Hospedia, the access charge will be free when calling from a giffgaff SIM. These numbers are used to access the bedside telephones found in some hospitals around the UK.
Usually, if a member calls these numbers they will incur two separate costs, giffgaff’s access charge and Hospedia’s service charge. GiffGaff have made their access charge free so members will only pay the service charge and the cost of the call.
More information is available on the GiffGaff website.
02 Retail Stores
O2 stores in Northern Ireland are closed. Unless we are in a National lockdown, 02 stores will open where local restrictions allow. Check to see if your local store is open.
Calls to the NHS 111 help line have always been free. And now you can also visit the NHS website without using your data, along with a number of other important websites that many people will rely on for support during this time. More information available on the FAQs on the 02 website.
O2 are giving customers who work for the NHS an extra 50GB a month for the next 2 month. For further information, visit the O2 website.
O2 are providing extra data to help with home schooling for families who are struggling to connect during lockdown. For further information, take a look at the FAQs on the O2 website or find out how to apply.
More information is available on the O2 website.
A large amount of work can be completed outside without an engineer having to go into your property. If an engineer does need to enter your home or premises, they'll do all they can to safeguard their visit and to follow social distancing guidelines.
To keep you and them safe, there's a couple of steps which will take place.
- Before the visit: Openreach will send you a text message which will include a short video with three simple steps to follow before they visit. You'll need to respond to the text to agree to the guidance. If you don't respond, the engineer will try to contact you to run through the guidance.
- On the day of the visit: The Openreach engineer will contact you to ask some screening questions to help them understand if there's been any changes since you booked your appointment.
Worried about paying your bill?
Plusnet understand that you might be struggling to pay bills at the moment. Plusnet can help by offering payment plans, if it helps make things a little easier to manage. Please get in touch with Plusnet and they will do all they can to help.
No data charges for BBC bitesize
With all schools across the nation being closed right now, Plusnet are working to support parents with home schooling and help keep their kids learning. All school kids will be able to access BBC Bitesize learning content without using up their data allowance.
This free support scheme will be available to all Plusnet Mobile customers from the end of January 2021. You don't need to do anything, we'll just remove all data charges for BBC Bitesize until the schools reopen. It's as easy as that.
Plusnet call centres
To ensure that you stay connected and to protect our staff Plusnet call centres are open 8am-8pm. Its likely Plusnet will be extremely busy if you call, so please only ring if it's really necessary and help us to prioritise our vulnerable customers first.
More information is available on the Plusnet website.
Broadband repair visits from Openreach
Openreach are still minimising any work inside the home but will only enter your home, when needed, to fix a problem if you have no working broadband or phone. If:
- The fault is outside your home, Openreach will fix the problem without having to enter your home. But they will still need you to be home for your whole appointment slot.
- The fault is inside your home, Openreach will do everything they can outside your home to try fix the problem. But if it isn’t possible and you have no working broadband or phone, the engineer might come into your home for a short period of time so they can access your master socket.
- Your broadband/phone is working but your problem is speed or performance, the engineer will try fix the problem without entering your home. But if this isn’t possible and access is needed, we can arrange to revisit at a later date when restrictions are relaxed.
Broadband Openreach installation visits
Openreach are still minimising any work inside the home but will enter your home if needed to install a new line. If this in the case, the engineer will come into your home for a short period of time only, to install or replace a socket. But in some cases the visit may need to be postponed until restrictions are relaxed. They'll complete a pre-visit consultation call if they need to visit your home to make sure it is safe for the visit to go ahead. Go to Keeping you safe during new Broadband & Talk installation for more info.
TV engineer visits
Sky are sending engineers out to fix TV problems and install Sky. To keep you safe, their engineers won’t be able to enter your home. Instead, they’ll complete any external work (like adjusting the position of your satellite dish or fixing external cabling) and talk you through any troubleshooting steps from outside your home. For the latest information on how coronavirus may affect your TV or Broadband engineer visit, click here.
More information is available on the SKY website.
Getting in contact
Talk Talk’s call waiting times are longer than usual. TalkTalk recommends that in the first instance customers should use its 24/7 online service centre to check that all is running as it should be. Customers can also contact TalkTalk through its online webchat.
Fibre 150 and Future Fibre customers
If you’ve recently signed up for Fibre 150 or Future Fibre and your installation date is on or after 11th January 2021, it’s likely your appointment will be postponed until 22nd February 2021 onwards. If this is the case, TalkTalk will send an SMS and call you to let you know. Openreach will also be in touch via SMS to confirm your new installation date. You can contact TalkTalk to choose a different date if your rescheduled appointment isn't convenient. If your broadband speed is less than 30Mbps on your current line or you don’t have an active internet service, your install will go ahead as scheduled.
Customers with accessibility needs
TalkTalk will prioritise their phone lines for customers who have already registered as needing additional accessibility support with a dedicated UK tech team supporting 7 days a week from 9am to 7pm weekdays and 9am to 6pm weekends.
You can register your additional accessibility requirements with us using My Account
TalkTalk customers can now access the NHS 111 Coronavirus service online to find out if they need to continue to stay at home or if they need medical help call 111, it’s FREE for all customer.
More information is available on the TalkTalk website.
Due to the current circumstances, a number of our stores nationwide are temporarily closed, so be sure to check our Store Locator for the details on your local Three store.
Three is providing its customers with free data to access NHS websites. All calls to NHS 111 are already FREE.
Three know that the current situation will have a financial impact on a lot of people. That's why, if you struggle to pay your bill during this period, Three won't stop your services. All they ask is that you let them know by calling 333 free 7 days a week so that Three can discuss your options.
More information is available on the Three website.
Tesco mobile customers can access NHS websites without using their data allowance. Tesco mobile have also introduced unlimited free evening and weekend calls which will not increase the tariff price for the whole length of your contract. To find out more visit tescomobile.com/littlehelps.
Worried about paying your bill?
If you’re looking to defer your bill, please log in to My Account and go to the ‘Bills and payments’ section. If you’re worried about paying your bill and you need to talk to us, you can call us on 4455 from your Tesco Mobile phone or 0345 301 4455 from another phone.
We’ll be able to talk you through your options and find one that’s right for you. Click here for more information.
Free access to the information you need
You can now visit a range of helpful websites for free on your phone, without using any data, from financial support, to mental health and Government advice. This includes Government Covid-19 information, which gives you the latest guidance on how to protect yourself and others.
For those who need assistance abroad at this time, we’ve also made some key airline UK phone numbers free to call from anywhere in the world. Check the list. You can also call the UK 101 police non-emergency number for free.
Free data and minutes to NHS frontline workers
This has now been extended until 30th June 20201. The scheme is now closed to new applicants, but if you registered by 31 July 2020 then you will continue to get the free data and minutes until 30th June 2021. To learn more visit tescomobile.com/nhs
Tesco Mobile Stores
Tesco mobile are open as normal in Northern Ireland. Most of our stores are open from 9am-6pm Monday to Saturday, Sundays vary. NHS, emergency service and care workers now have priority access to our stores at any time. If there's a queue, please come to the front with your valid ID.
Check store details for new priority hours for vulnerable and elderly customers. To check opening hours find your local Phone Shop.
Check the network near you
We share O2’s network. Check the live status checker, updated on the hour, every hour.
More information is available on the Tesco mobile website.
Virgin Media retail stores are now permanently closed, but don’t worry – they are still supporting customers 24 hours, 7 days a week at Virgin Media
Virgin Media are doing all they can to help their customers if they find it difficult to pay their bill during this time.
Virgin has made all visits to the NHS online free, so you won’t use any data while accessing information.
As schools have closed and children are switching to remote learning once again, Virgin Media understand this is tough for many families. Working with government, Virgin Media are providing 20GB of extra mobile data per month, for free, to those who don’t have any broadband connectivity and have limited mobile data. More information is available here.
Vulnerable Pay Monthly customers
Virgin Media are keeping their most vulnerable Pay Monthly customers connected with unlimited minutes and a monthly 10GB data boost. Virgin Media vulnerable Pay As You Go customers are getting 500 extra minutes, 500 extra texts, and a 1GB data boost for the next three months.
More information is available on Virgin's website.
All Northern Ireland Vodafone stores are now closed. From 6 January 2021, Click and Collect is no longer available. Although stores are closed, there are still many ways Vodafone can support you. Help is available through webchat on the Vodafone UK website or by phone on 03333 040 191. Store staff are now helping customers through webchat.
Vodafone has enabled mobile customers, whatever their payment plan, to access certain NHS websites – like http://www.nhs.uk/and http://www.111.nhs.uk/– without using any of their data allowance.
It has also added extra capacity to its broadband and mobile networks to put them in the best possible position to cope with any extra demand as more people work from home.
5 November 2020: Vodafone has launched a new plan to help people who have become unemployed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic to stay connected. The plan will give people unlimited mobile data, minutes and texts for just £10 a month, for up to six months, with no fuss, no need for a credit check and no contract to sign.
Vodafone main priority during this time is keeping the UK connected. If you want to find out more information on how we can support you during financial difficulties, please see here: https://vodafone.uk/Advice
If you're unable to pay your bill on time, you can contact us on 56677 to set up a promise to pay, or to review one previously set up.
More information is available on the Vodafone website.
Sky Sports and BT Sport
Sky has announced that customers Sky Sports packages have resumed. See www.sky.com/help/articles/pause-sky-sports for further information
- Your Sports subscription payment will be paused until the action resumes
- All 11 Sky Sports channels plus your recordings will remain available
- As soon as the action returns, Sky will reinstate your Sports subscription. You don’t need to do anything.
Virgin has announced that if you have paused Sky Sports, BT Sports or both, that credit has been applied to your bills to cover the usual costs for the Sky Sports or BT Sports package per month. See www.virginmedia.com/pauseskysports for details.
BT Sport customers can now apply for a refund following disruption to sporting events. At present you can claim back the value of one month's membership. How much this is will be depends on your package. Visit bt.com/sportsupport to apply, and enter your name, email address and account number. The sum will be credited to your BT account within ten working days.