Dan Howdle | May 25th, 2023
It's time for a good, old-fashioned showdown. In the purple corner is BT, the market leader and probably the best-known brand in telecoms. In the black corner we have TalkTalk, all grown up and with some notable, adolescent mistakes behind it.
They are two of the biggest broadband providers in the UK. But with great power comes great responsibility and both these brands often find themselves in the news for the wrong reasons. Yet they both offer ultrafast, full fibre speeds and respectable packages. Here’s how the two broadband behemoths measure up against each other.
Here's a quick feature comparison on how BT and Talktalk stack up.
|Up to 900Mbps
|Up to 900Mbps
|Up to 110Mbps
|Up to 110Mbps
|Full Fibre speeds
|Service satisfaction (Ofcom)
With both providers offering the full range of speeds, from standard broadband all the way to 900Mbps full fibre, there’s little to choose between them. However, BT does offer a mid-level superfast broadband speed of 50Mbps, which TalkTalk does not, but TalkTalk wins by guaranteeing faster minimum speeds than BT.
Both TalkTalk and BT now only offer standard broadband to those few customers who cannot get any kind of fibre service. Beyond that, BT offers three superfast speeds averaging 36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67Mbps. TalkTalk offers two superfast speeds averaging 38Mbps and 67Mbps.
Now that the Advertising Standards Agency insists that broadband providers only advertise speeds that are available to a minimum of 50 per cent of their customers, it is clearer what speed you are likely to receive. If you put your postcode into our availability checker, you will get an even more precise predicted speed for your address.
When it comes to full fibre speeds, both BT and TalkTalk offer up to 900Mbps. BT also offers full fibre speeds of 36Mbps, 50Mbps, 74Mbps, 150Mbps, and 500Mbps. In comparison, TalkTalk offers a smaller selection of 75Mbps, 150Mbps, 500Mbps and 900Mbps. The fact that these ultrafast services only use fibre optic cables and no copper wires that can slow down your broadband speed means that you are far more likely to receive the advertised speeds, and possibly even higher, than with standard or superfast broadband speeds.
TalkTalk boasts that the average speed for its top package of 900Mbps is actually 944Mbps, which beats BT’s equivalent offering.
Both providers advertise a minimum download speed for each of their full fibre speeds. For TalkTalk this is 55Mbps for its Fibre 65 package, 120Mbps for its Fibre 150, 440Mbps for its Fibre 500 and 725Mbps for its Fibre 900.
BT offers its Stay Fast Guarantee for all its full fibre speeds, starting with 18Mbps for its 36Mbps service, 25Mbps for its 50Mbps, 34Mbps for its 74Mbps, 100Mbps for its Full Fibre 100, 425Mbps for its Fibre 500 and 700Mbps for its Full Fibre 900. These guaranteed minimums are therefore slower than the comparable speeds offered by TalkTalk.
TalkTalk only constrains its customers to an 18-month contract compared to the 24 months demanded by BT. However, BT offers a greater range of speeds than TalkTalk, and also offers a digital landline to anyone that still wants to make calls from their home phone, whereas TalkTalk does not offer a home phone plan at all with its full fibre packages.
BT’s entry-level Superfast Fibre Essential comes with a download speed of 36Mbps, Superfast Fibre 1 comes with 50Mbps and Superfast Fibre 2 comes with 67Mbps.
All the superfast fibre deals come with pay-as-you-go calls as standard, along with access to more than five million wi-fi hotspots. Customers wanting to bolt on a call plan can choose from 500 minutes, 700 minutes and Unlimited Minutes.
BT offers six full fibre plans, with speeds ranging from 36Mbps to 900Mbps. Full fibre plans come as broadband-only as standard, but customers can choose to have a Digital Voice phone plan for an extra fiver a month. As with superfast broadband, you can then choose to just pay for the calls you make, or add 500, 700 minutes or Unlimited Minutes to your plan each month – for a further monthly fee.
All TalkTalk plans come on an 18-month contract. Just two superfast fibre plans are on offer, averaging 38Mbps and 67Mbps. Both plans come with a landline and pay-as-you-go calls as standard, with the option to bolt on evening and weekend calls, unlimited anytime calls and international calls.
TalkTalk offers four Full FIbre packages: Fibre 65, Fibre 150, Fibre 500 and Fibre 900. Unlike BT, TalkTalk does not offer the option of a digital phone line with its full fibre plans – they are all broadband-only.
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In this section there is no contest; BT is the clear winner, at least according to Ofcom’s most recent report into standards of customer service in the home broadband sector.
Having previously been one of the UK’s most-complained-about broadband providers, BT has turned things around and now ranks highly for its customer service standards. According to Ofcom’s latest report, BT came out top for service overall, with 88 per cent – above the sector average of 83 per cent – whereas TalkTalk gained just 78 per cent. BT had 42 complaints for every 100,000 customers, with TalkTalk having almost double that amount with 75. The sector average was just 49.
For satisfaction with speed of their service, BT customers were again the happiest of all the major providers, with 83 per cent happy, whereas only 73 per cent of TalkTalk customers were satisfied with their download speed – below the sector average of 80 per cent.
The only area in which TalkTalk did better than BT was with time taken to answer the phone. TalkTalk customers have to wait just one minute and two seconds before the phone is answered (on average), but BT customers have to wait one minute and 46 seconds. Both however, were faster than the sector average of two minutes and 16 seconds.
BT customers in need of help can get in touch either by phone from 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 8pm weekends and bank holidays. Alternatively there is a live chat service available. Customers can also get in touch via the provider’s social media pages @bt_uk on Twitter or @BTUK on Facebook. BT also has an array of information on its site to help customers solve common problems, including the BT Community where customers can help each other.
TalkTalk has an active community forum where customers can easily find solutions to any problems they have. It also has a selection of pages providing advice on everything from speed issues to wifi problems. Alternatively, customers can use the live chat service or get in touch over the phone from 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday or 9am to 6pm on Saturday. Like BT, TalkTalk also has social media pages where customers can send a message, either on Twitter or Facebook @TalkTalk.
TalkTalk wins on this one with the introduction of its new Amazon eero router for Full Fibre customers. This is for now the only Wi-Fi 6 router offered free by mainstream providers and offers far greater support for the ultrafast speeds than the current Wi-Fi 5 routers supplies by other providers.
BT’s customers all receive the BT Smart Hub router regardless of which broadband plan they take. It has seven antennas to find the best frequencies for the top speeds and has four Ethernet ports for wired connections. The BT Smart Hub also constantly monitors your internet connection and if it spots a problem, it will quietly reboot and make a fresh connection.
Customers wanting to make sure every corner of their home has a good connection can choose to pay extra for BT Complete Wi-Fi. For this, BT will provide you with up to two Wi-Fi discs to create a mesh network around your home.
TalkTalk customers signing up to a superfast fibre package will be sent the Wifi Hub router. Much like the BT Smart Hub, this router has seven antennas, four gigabit-ready Ethernet ports and will comfortably support up to 50 devices at once. Customers signing up to one of TalkTalk’s Full FIbre packages will receive the Amazon eero router.
This superior piece of tech comes with the latest wifi standard, Wi-Fi 6, capable of supporting far faster speeds than a Wi-Fi 5 router. TalkTalk is currently the only UK broadband provider to offer a router with this technology. Customers that want a mesh network to ensure they can receive the best wifi signal everywhere in their home, can choose to pay extra for TalkTalk’s Total Home Wi-Fi and receive a second eero router to increase their coverage.
The fact that BT offers additional virus protection for free on two devices and provides free BT Wi-Fi hotspots for customers away from home means it beats TalkTalk in this category.
All BT broadband deals come with BT Web Protect. This will protect any devices connected to your home router or to a BT Wi-Fi hotspot when you are away from home. BT also offers its Virus Protect to offer additional cover to individual devices on top of Web Protect. All customers receive two licences to use on any two devices for free, but up to 15 licenses are available at any extra cost should you want them.
BT customers also benefit from the thousands of free BT Wi-Fi hotspots scattered through shops, restaurants, hotels, cinemas and stations around the country. Plus, it regularly offers BT Reward cards to tempt new customers in with an introductory bonus, whereas TalkTalk does not generally offer any cash rewards.
TalkTalk broadband deals come with its WebSafe protection software to keep any device connected to your TalkTalk router free from viruses and malware, much like BT’s Web Protect. Customers can choose to pay extra for TalkTalk Online Defence (also known as SuperSafe) antivirus software, which provides additional protection on up to 10 devices for an extra monthly fee.
The winner is BT – just. BT and TalkTalk are pretty much neck-and-neck when it comes to speed. Pricewise, TalkTalk is invariably slightly cheaper than BT, and also offers a shorter contract. TalkTalk also offers the better router – but only for its Full FIbre customers. Ultimately BT has to be the winner however by trouncing TalkTalk when it comes to customer satisfaction.