By Steve McCaskill | Monday, January 7th 2019
Sky and BT are two of the biggest names in British broadband, each offering a range of standard and superfast packages to suit virtually every need.
BT needs no introduction having offered communications services to consumers for decades, while Sky is best known for the satellite television service it has offered since the early 1990s. In 2006, Sky introduced its broadband services and competition has become fierce between the two providers since then.
If you’re after a TV service to go with your broadband, then the equation is a little bit more complex, but if it’s a straight shoot-out on broadband then the two are evenly matched. So which one of these heavyweights is right for you?
Both BT and Sky use the Openreach network to deliver their respective broadband connections. Both offer unlimited standard broadband, which is slower and less predictable than fibre, with speeds averaging 10 to 11Mbps.
If you need something more rapid, then you should go for a superfast service which uses fibre cables for at least part of the connection, boosting speeds and reliability. It’s here where there is some variation between BT and Sky.
Sky’s now only offers one fibre speed: 59Mbps. BT's entry-level unlimited fibre package, Superfast Fibre Essential, also averages 36Mbps. It then offers its two top-level Superfast Fibre (previously Infinity) packages, averaging 50Mbps and 67Mbps respectively.
BT also offers ultrafast broadband which comes in two speeds – 152Mbps and 314Mbps – and the provider will reimburse you if speeds ever fall below 100Mbps. The catch? Availability is extremely limited at present.
BT has the edge on speed here if you live in an ultrafast broadband area. There BT blows Sky out of the water. If not, though – and it's pretty likely not – this is as good as a dead heat.
Sky and BT both offer unlimited ‘standard’ packages with 10-11Mbps broadband, with both contracts demanding 18 months of commitment.
Sky Broadband Essential – now its only fibre package – which promises an average of 59Mbps, comes with a minimum 18-month term. BT’s Superfast Fibre 1 (previously BT Infinity 1) and Superfast Fibre 2 are also both subject to an 18-month minimum.
Regardless of which company you sign up for, line rental is included in the headline cost, and thanks to recent Ofcom legislation, when you sign up with BT or Sky you just need to tell your new provider that you are planning to switch. They’ll tell your old provider and then both will write to you to confirm the details.
A draw. Sky may offer a simpler range (two speeds rather than three), but the small print says that prices may go up during the lifetime of the agreement. Plus, the contract lengths are the same.
This is where things get a bit more interesting. Sky receives the fewest complaints of any UK broadband provider, According to Ofcom, which says the company gets just 7 per 100,000 customers – less than half the industry average of 18. Meanwhile, BT gets an above average level of 25 per 100,000.
When it comes to customer satisfaction, Sky has a narrow lead too, with 88 per cent of subscribers saying they are satisfied with their firm and 61 per cent are happy with how complaints are handled. The average call waiting time is just 1 minute 42 seconds.
In comparison, 84 per cent of BT customers are happy and 56 per cent are happy with the complaints process. However, there was an average wait of 3 minutes 59 seconds to speak to someone on the phone.
Sky has the superior customer service and its customers tend to be happier with how any grievances are dealt with. A clear winner.
Once more, there is little to chose between the two. With Sky you get the Sky Q Hub router, which promises to deliver three times faster speeds than the previous Sky Hub model. It also has smart signal technology to optimise the wireless connection and it can connect up to 64 devices at once.
As an added bonus, if you have Sky Q, both the main Sky Q box and Sky Q mini boxes act as wireless hotspots to boost coverage around the home. If you need a wired connection, then the Sky Q Hub supports 1Gbps Ethernet – up from the 100Mbps ports on the Sky Hub.
In comparison, the BT Smart Hub promises the UK’s best wi-fi connection. Like the Sky Q Hub, it supports multiple frequencies, but claims its seven antennas allow for better coverage. It also has more Ethernet ports than the Sky Q Hub for wired connections.
There’s little to choose between the two in terms of equipment, but if you plan on getting Sky Q then you’ll get the most out of Sky’s router.
If you opt for Sky broadband then you’ll get access to the Sky Wi-Fi nationwide network of hotspots, allowing you to use your laptop while you’re out and about, or to save your mobile data allowance. But this is matched by BT, which will give you free access to the vast BT Wi-Fi network.
But with BT Broadband you get subsidised BT Sport to watch online (it's often free for the first few months), or completely free if you also sign up to BT TV.
If sport is a priority for you, then BT is the clear winner with either cheap or free BT Sport for all BT broadband customers. When it comes to free wi-fi, Sky and BT are equally matched.
There really isn’t much difference in terms of the level of service you can expect from either provider, so it may ultimately come down to price. If you plan on taking out a mobile or TV subscription, it pays to see what bundles are available, and from time to time, BT Reward Cards that effectively offer cash back in your pocket are available.