By Luke Albiges | Monday, January 28th 2019
BT or EE... which pair of letters should you trust to deliver you the best broadband package possible? Both the telecoms giant and the relatively new player in the broadband space offer similar packages on paper, so let's break things down to see how the two actually stack up.
Whichever you decide upon, your money is more or less going to the same place anyway – BT acquired EE (itself formed through the merger of Orange and T-Mobile) in 2016, although it continues to expand independently of BT's own operations. But as with any service provider, there are benefits and drawbacks to both massive companies and smaller ones.
EE's trio of packages offer a typical array of speed options – a basic broadband option averaging 10Mbps, with two faster fibre options averaging 36Mbps and 67Mbps. Meanwhile, BT offers four packages - all of them unlimited – 10Mbps Broadband, 36Mbps Fibre Essential, 50Mbps Superfast Fibre 1 and 67Mbps Superfast Fibre 2.
The average speeds are available to 50% of EE and BT's customers, but bear in mind that other factors – such as distances to exchanges and quality of lines being used – can have a significant impact on the actual speeds you will get.
BT has another trick up its sleeve to help swing this category in its favour, namely its ultrafast options that are rolling out around the country. While coverage isn't widespread right now, those lucky enough to be able to get in on these top-end lines can enjoy speeds averaging 300Mbps. In fact, BT is so confident in these new fibre lines that it even offers cash rebates if the actual speed you get should ever drop below 100Mbps.
When it comes to choice, BT offers a greater range of packages than EE. But if you want to go for standard broadband or top-end fibre, there's nothing to choose between them in price, unless you are one of the lucky few who can get BT's Ultrafast 300Mbps service.
As mentioned, EE has three main packages, although there's an additional variant of the top-end Fibre Max option that can let EE mobile customers enjoy a ton of extra data on top of their usual allowance. All EE bundles include line rental and benefit from completely unlimited usage with no data caps or throttling, meaning you can download and stream to your heart's content.
Unsurprisingly for a much larger company, BT has a somewhat wider range of packages available. In addition to the standard broadband option, there are two Superfast (previously Infinity) packages, and an entry-level fibre package offering 36Mbps. All four packages come with unlimited usage options.
A fifth option is BT Superfast Fibre 2 with BT Plus. For an extra tenner a month, you will be signed up to BT Plus. This means you will be a sent a second router, known as the Mini Hub, which, should your fibre service ever go down, will automatically connect you to unlimited 4G at no extra cost, until your fibre service returns. Of course, this means you must also be signed up to BT Mobile, but you will also get double data, whichever bundle you are on, as part of the BT Plus package.
BT's newest offerings are its ultrafast options, although these are naturally quite a bit more expensive than standard fibre broadband. Prices will likely fall as coverage grows, but among the major players, only Virgin can boast comparable maximum speeds.
EE's packages cover all the usual bases and typically come in a little cheaper than BT's, although deals and prices are always changing. BT has more options to choose from, including one faster than EE can deliver, so it's more likely that you'll be able to find something suitable for your own needs there.
BT doesn't exactly have the best track record in this field, tracking worse than its major rivals in most recent Ofcom reports. That said, the company is making tracks in the right direction and hiring thousands of new UK-based staff has led to the vast majority of customer calls – eight out of ten, by BT's own count – being picked up in the country rather than ending up at foreign call centres.
EE, meanwhile, doesn't have enough of a foothold in the broadband space to be tracked alongside its major competitors, though it has been noted that its customer service did suffer for a while shortly after being acquired by BT.
EE has been on the up-and-up ever since, though, and even boasts the second-lowest number of complaints received by any provider – lower overall user figures than many rivals likely help skew this fact in EE's favour, but it's still impressive. EE also manages to nip some potential complaints in the bud with a series of video tutorials to help customers resolve common issues without having to pick up the phone, which less tech-savvy folks might find a useful little extra.
Customer service lines for each are open from 8am to 9pm during the week and 8am to 8pm Saturdays, with BT operating a shorter 9-6 service on Sundays while EE sticks to 8-8. Both also offer online chat assistance via their websites should you rather let your fingers do the talking.
Both seem to be improving, but there's not much in it here – other providers simply have these two beat in this field.
The standard Home Hub that you get with BT's regular service might not be much to write home about, but the Smart Hub it provides for a small fee with Infinity fibre packages is certainly a decent little bit of kit. Boasting great wireless range and plenty of useful features, it's widely considered to be the best router bundled with any major ISP's broadband packages. In fact, BT even backs up its claims of having the best wi-fi performance by publishing its test results against its competitors' products, in which the Smart Hub comes out on top in every category.
Comparatively, that same data doesn't paint EE's more basic Bright Box router in such a good light – the device seems to be outperformed in most categories, though realistically it shouldn't make too much difference in many cases. It's still a perfectly functional router and, like BT, EE offers an improved Smart Hub for those who sign up to its fibre packages.
BT has this one in the bag, but that's not slight on EE's decent offerings – BT just happens to have the best tech in the business when it comes to bundled routers.
BT clearly takes online security seriously, with a three-pronged defence system – Parental Controls allow you to control what can be accessed online, Virus Protect covers up to 15 devices against harmful software and activity, and Web Protect offers warnings if you ever come across anything that seems fishy.
EE's comparable offerings aren't quite so robust, although you do get a year of Norton Security Premium to protect up to 10 devices from harm. After the 12 months is up, though, it's £69.99 a year to continue using it, so it might not be the cheapest long-term solution for staying safe online.
Both providers offer extras for customers who use both their broadband and mobile services. BT's takes the form of a simple flat discount on mobile plans for BT broadband users, while EE chucks in a generous amount of extra data – up to a whopping 100GB a month on its top end packages, letting you enjoy all your favourite content wherever you are without fear of going over your data allowance.
Both also offer a number of extras for your landline, with options for free anytime calls available for those that still make a lot of use of the home phone.
BT again sneaks in front with its vast network wi-fi hotspots around the country, with more than five million available for BT customers to use while they're out and about. In many cases, this'll mean you wouldn't need that extra data offered by EE – wherever you are, there's likely to be a BT hotspot nearby that you can use.
There are a few other bits worth mentioning too, like EE's 'EE TV' option with over 70 free channels and BT's cloud storage solutions (EE has this too, but only as part of its Norton security suite and you only get 12 months of that included), and you'll often find other offers and add-ons will come and go, so it's worth shopping around from time to time.
BT edges it again thanks to a wider array of functions and features, although those who use a lot of mobile data might be better served by EE's generous data add-ons.
As one of the nation's largest and most-used broadband providers, it's no great surprise to see BT stealing the win here, especially with its 50Mbps entry-level fibre speed that beats EE's 36Mbps hands down. BT's superior Smart Hub router and its plentiful amounts of security software also hand it the crown.
However, EE's offerings are by no means below par – especially with the extra data boost thrown in with its top-end package, so be sure to fully investigate all options before choosing your new provider.