Fibre is an important part of our internet diet these days, and BT and Sky are two of the biggest providers in the fibre broadband market. So how do you choose between these two giants of the home telecoms industry?
BT and Sky are two of the best-known broadband providers in the UK. They both use the Openreach network for their cabling and go head-to-head on speed and packages, but these are just two ways to compare what you are going to get. Slight differences emerge when it comes to download limits, customer service, technology and the all-important extras. Here’s how the two heavyweights stack up against each other.
Sky offers two fibre speeds, averaging 36Mbps and 63Mbps. BT also starts with 36Mbps, but also offers 50Mbps and 67Mbps speeds, thereby offering a faster top speed than Sky, and more choice.
The download speed is important so you know how well you can stream movies or get your pictures and music. But you also want to be able to send emails and open webpages fast and that is where the upload speed comes in. Both have similar rates for uploads, averaging 9Mbps for their entry-level fibre option and 18Mbps for the top speed.
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to your broadband choice. BT wins here by offering a higher entry-level speed, and also for a higher premium fibre speed – 67Mbps on average against Sky's 63Mbps.
Sky now offers only one fibre package. Sky Broadband Superfast comes with speeds averaging 59Mbps and no usage restrictions.It comes on an 18-month contract, with line rental and 12-month free trials of McAfee anti-virus software.
BT has a bit more choice by offering three unlimited fibre options, Superfast Fibre Essential with 36Mbps download speeds, Superfast Fibre 1 (previously BT Infinity 1) with average speed of 50Mbps and Superfast Fibre 2 (Infinity 2) which averages 67Mbps. All BT’s packages come with line rental and unlimited UK weekend calls on an 18-month contract.
BT does better for choice than Sky, with three speed options rather than two. Plus, BT's average top speed just pips Sky to the post.
Sky ranks highly for customer satisfaction and regularly gets awards for its work. The latest industry data from Ofcom shows 88% of customers were satisfied with its service, compared with 88% for BT. Sky had just 26 complaints per 100,000 customers compared with 127 at BT.
The average percentage of customers with reason to complain across broadband providers was 13%, and Sky’s own figures show it had fewer issues at 12% while BT’s was 13%. When complaints did arise, 61% were happy with how Sky dealt with them, but that figure falls to 56% for BT. Both have among the longest waiting times to get through to customer services. Sky customers face a 1 minute 42 second wait while BT’s average time on hold was 3 minutes and 59 seconds. In comparison, the average across the sector was 2 minutes 51 seconds.
If you do need to speak to one of these providers, Sky operates a seven-days-a-week service with two-hour flexible appointments. Customers can access live chat online between 7am and 11pm and a telephone contact centre available between 8am and 9pm. BT’s contact centre is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week on the phone and offers live chat online.
Sky does one extra bit of customer service for new users. It operates a Sky Switch Squad that will manage the move for you. This means there are no awkward phone calls with the provider you are leaving. This works with all suppliers except Virgin Media.
For all its good deals, BT seems to let itself down with customer service. You do at least get 24-hour support on hand if issues do crop up, but Sky wins this round as it seems to have a better track record of satisfied customers and of dealing with issues when they do arise.
Both offer pretty nifty technology. BT fibre customers get a Smart Hub, kitted out with seven antennas that locate the best frequencies for the top speeds and are also set up to cope with faster speeds in the future, so if BT brings out improved packages you won’t need a new router. The hub has an energy-saving mode when not in use and also constantly monitors your internet connection and if it spots a problem, it will quietly reboot and make a fresh connection.
Sky fibre customers get equally good equipment with the Sky Q Hub. It has two ethernet ports, a 2.4GHz and 5GHz antenna, plus you can connect up to 64 devices. It is designed to save energy and will automatically switch to low power mode when not in use.
Both are pretty neck-and-neck on tech. They get green points for energy saving and the ability to connect a multitude of devices. BT just takes this one as you get more internal antennas, which should ensure a more consistent signal, plus its router will always automatically look for fresh connections when your existing one goes down.
Sky customers receive a McAfee Internet Security Suite trial for 12 months as well as the Sky Broadband Shield that lets you filter websites and customise your privacy settings into age categories. You can also use its helpful watershed feature that lets you set age-rating restrictions depending on the time of day. Sky customers also get access to the Sky WiFi app while on the move. This gives an added option to the often slow public wi-fi available and provides free and unlimited wi-fi in thousands of popular places across the UK such as coffee shops. It can be used on six registered devices.
It is worth keeping an eye on Sky deals as it often has incentives such as cashback. You can also get cashback with BT deals and it often throws in BT Sport for free on some packages.
BT offers similar extras such as virus protection and you can get up to 200GB of storage in the BT Cloud or up 1TB with Superfast fibre 2. BT customers also get free access to five million BT Wi-fi hotspots around the UK.
If you can time your broadband purchase correctly, one of these may well offer some lovely cashback. If not, you still get useful wi-fi on the move and virus protection with both providers. BT wins this one though as its wi-fi hotspots are more widespread, you get cloud storage, and depending on any current offers, you may even get a deal with free BT Sport.
You can used to be able to get more speed for your money with BT as its entry-level unlimited fibre 50Mbps broadband started with a faster target that Sky, but now with Sky only offering one fibre package, it is faster than BT's entry-level deals. BT falls behind on customer service compared with Sky’s award-winning offering, but then brings itself back into contention with technology and its extras such as public wi-fi and BT Sport. It is worth noting that Sky offers top TV deals that can be cheaper with its own broadband services, but if you are just looking for a reliable fibre provider, BT is worth a go.