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BT Fibre Essential, BT Fibre 1 and BT Fibre 2 – what's the difference?

By Dan Howdle | Wednesday, May 27th 2020

Once called BT Infinity, BT's fibre offering is now a bit more complicated than it used to be, with three different speeds in place of the old two. They are now called Fibre Essential, Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 and come in speeds of 36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67Mbps respectively, and makes choosing the right one for you somewhat trickier. Worry not, though, we can untangle this mess for you in short order.

The truth is, for most applications you're not going to notice the difference between these speeds. Steaming movies and TV for example – the application most of us use with the highest speed requirements – is perfectly doable on BT's 'slowest' fibre – Fibre Essential – even when streaming in 4K.

Where the differences begin to matter comes down to the number of people in your household who use the internet concurrently. The more people, the more speed you need to ensure you're never bumping up against your maximum speed.

What speeds to expect from BT Fibre

Unlike other providers, BT offers a 'mid' fibre tier at 50Mbps. It's not much faster than its 36Mbps option and not much slower than is 67Mbps option. Splitting hairs, in our opinion. However, more choice can only be a good thing. Here's the full rundown on the speeds the three main BT Fibre packages.

  • BT Fibre Essential – Starting at the bottom is BT Fibre Essential offers average speeds of 36Mbps – comparable to most other providers' entry-level fibre speeds, and perfectly sufficient for most households. It offers an average upload speed of 9.5Mbps, which is again perfectly sufficient for most
  • BT Fibre 1 – BT's middle-tier Fibre 1 package offers average speeds of 50Mbps, and in all honesty it's not that much faster than Fibre Essential. 50Mbps is faster enough for most households with up to four internet users. It also offers an average upload speed of 9.5Mbps
  • BT Fibre 2 – Though BT does offer faster packages in some parts of the country, for most of us, the Fibre 2 represents the fastest BT deal we can get. It clocks in with speeds averaging 67Mbps and is fast enough for most households with five to six internet users. It offers an average upload speed of 19Mbps. If you want or need to go faster than this, you'll need to turn to Virgin Media

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BT Fibre Essential is generally the worst option

Now, we're not saying that BT Fibre Essential isn't good – it is (though it's a little expensive as with all BT broadband deals). No, what we're saying is it's the worst of the three options when compared on a price to performance basis.

You see, at 36Mbps is also comes with the BT Home Hub 5 which, while not a terrible router, isn't anywhere near as good as the BT Smart Hub, which comes with BT Fibre 1. The 14Mbps speed deficit and inferior router wouldn't necessarily be a problem if BT Fibre Essential were considerable cheaper. The problem, and what makes BT Fibre Essential a comparatively bad deal, is that by opting for the slower package with the worse router, you only save £1 per month (at the time of writing).

And that makes BT Fibre Essential a poor choice for anyone who has their heart set on BT fibre broadband of some kind. Our advice is pay the extra quid and enjoy the better router and extra speed.

BT Fibre 1 is the best value option

We already talked about why BT Fibre 1 is a better deal in the section above. But why is it the best deal overall compared to BT Fibre 2? Well, although BT Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 are 17Mbps apart on paper – a difference that really could swing it in some households – we're still very much in the 'not mattering all that much' zone here.

A 17Mbps advantage could, for example, mean that the 6GB HD movie you're downloading will take 17m and 10s on BT Fibre 1, compared to 12m 49s on BT Fibre 2. Unless you value those four and a half minutes at about seven quid a month (at the time of writing), BT Fibre 2 just isn't as cost-effective. Especially since both BT Fibre 1 and BT Fibre 2 come with the same excellent router – the BT Smart Hub.

Are we saying BT Fibre 2 is a scam? Nothing of the kind. Scam implies intent to deceive and that's not what's happening here. However, since BT upgraded its Fibre 1 speed to 50Mbps, it no longer equals Virgin Media's entry-level offering, which is now a very fast indeed 100Mbps.

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BT Fibre 2 is better for upload speeds

While there is nowhere near enough real-world differentiation between the download speeds offered by BT's fibre line-up, the upload speeds are worlds apart. Whether that's significant to you will depend entirely on what you intend to do with it. And upload speeds are, in our opinion, the main reason to pay quite a bit more for BT Fibre 2. If you need them.

While download speeds dictate how fast you can copy things from the internet to your devices, upload speeds do the opposite, dictating how fast you can copy or send things from your device to the internet, or through the internet to cloud storage or another device. As consumers, we receive much more than we send, so in most cases upload speed isn't something we need to worry about.

BT Fibre 1 (previously Infinity 1 and Superfast Fibre – BT changes its naming conventions a lot) offers an advertised upload speed of 9.5Mbps. Ofcom has measured the actual speed received on average across a 24-hour period as around 8Mbps. BT Fibre 2 offers an advertised upload speed of 19.5Mbps. The most recent Ofcom report has this at a measured average across a 24-hour period of around 16Mbps.

If you live in a household that does a lot of upload-heavy tasks (cloud computing, file sharing, certain types of online gaming), the difference between the two packages will be significant, offering a 68% real-world gains in upload speed with BT Fibre 2 over that offered by BT Fibre 1. That's compared with only a 25% gain in download speed.

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Frequently asked questions

Do Fibre Essential, BT Fibre 1 and BT Fibre 2 come with different routers?

Yes. With BT's 36 Mbps Fibre Essential package you will get BT's older Home Hub 5. With either BT Fibre 1 or BT Fibre 2, however, you will get the higher-specced BT Smart Hub, which is also the number one reason we recommend BT Fibre 1 or BT Fibre 2 over BT Fibre Essential.

If I get BT Fibre Essential or BT Fibre 1 and it's not fast enough, can I upgrade easily?

Yes. It's incredibly easy to upgrade from so long as there is a faster package to upgrade to. You can do it online or over the phone as soon as you're up and running with your services. Just remember that your download speed gains are likely to be small, so think carefully before upgrading.

Do I get any form of parental controls with BT Fibre packages?

Yes. BT offers a full suite of parental controls that allow you to manage the content your children have access to and at what times of the day.

What do I get with BT Fibre packages that I won't get form other providers?

Primarily, the most notable difference is that as a BT Fibre customer, you'll be able to access more than five million wifi hotspots around the UK for free. Set it up once on your phone, tablet or laptop, and it will automatically tune into one of these signals where available rather than chewing through your available mobile data. Very handy, and you won't find this with any other provider.

You'll also get an app, and 200GB of cloud storage with BT Fibre Essential and BT Fibre 1, or 1000GB of cloud storage with BT Fibre 2. Most providers offer these things to a lesser or greater extent, however. If you're the sort of person who is going to use 1000GB of cloud storage, then opting for the package that offers it (Fibre 2) with its 65% extra upload speed is the right choice.

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