BT broadband explained
In this guide
- Why choose BT?
- What packages are available?
- What speeds are available?
- Installation and what to expect
- What router will I get?
- What else is available?
- Can I get BT broadband?
- About BT broadband
- Contacting BT
Why choose BT?
There’s a long and varied list of reasons why BT is a safe bet when it comes to broadband provision.
The provider insists that its WiFi router, known as the Smart Hub, is the most powerful available to customers. While we can’t verify or disprove that claim, we can show you the results of a range of tests carried out against Virgin Media and Sky Broadband’s routers, published on BT’s website. For a modest extra fee, BT also offer an interesting option called Hybrid Connect, which enables your Smart Hub to be even smarter by automatically switching between your broadband and EE's mobile network to achieve 'unbreakable WiFi'.
The brand offers all of its broadband packages with unlimited usage, so you won’t come up against any download limits, no matter how much time you spend online.
BT boasts millions of WiFi hotspots across the UK, and as a customer, you’ll have access to all of these. It's not going to be useful for everyone, but it does mean you’ll be able to get online free of charge almost wherever you are – at an airport, motorway service station, shopping centre or cafe.
BT frequenly offers cashback in the form of reward cards, so it's worth keeping an eye out for those deals as they come up. Usually they're in the form of prepaid Mastercards that can be used to spend pretty much as you like.
Finally, there's a range of additional benefits ranging from parental controls to the free antivirus software included in many of their deals.
As with all internet providers, there are some downsides to signing up for a deal with them. The most obvious of these is that the brand’s prices tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum - though the quality of service, great speeds and access to WiFi hotspots while out and about are incentive enough for some customers to invest a little more.
The ISP comes up short, from time to time, when it comes to feedback on customer service, and the brand doesn’t offer any form of short-term arrangements, with only 24 month contract lengths on all its packages.
To get a fuller picture of what BT has to offer, and what it’s really like being a BT broadband customer, check out our expert BT broadband review.
How much is BT?
BT’s monthly charges start from £25.99 a month for their handily named ‘Broadband’ package – which is basic ADSL. Uniquely among providers, BT will only offer you this if there's nothing faster available at your address – so if you can get fibre, they simply won't sell you an ADSL connection. But helpfully their entry level Fibre Essential package is usually priced to match, so you won't be forced to pay more.
From there it's onwards and upwards with Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 offered at a relatively small premium (and often with quite an attractive reward card) right through to their newest FTTP packages which offer absolutely lightning fast speeds if you're lucky enough to be connected. But do come at quite a cost.
How long are BT contracts?
While BT broadband contracts did once vary, they're now a standard period of 24 months. Some people may feel that's a long time to commit, but many just prefer the security of knowing everything is taken care of for the next few years. It's certainly one less thing to worry about.
As with all providers, if you want to leave your broadband contract part way through, it’s likely that you’ll be charged a hefty early exit fee, so do make sure you're comfortable with the arrangement from the start.
What packages does BT offer?
As with most other UK broadband providers, BT currently offers standalone broadband along with packages that combine landline and TV servies. However, in BT's case they really do now mean 'standalone' – you can now opt out of having a landline entirely. Although as of yet they're not offering a price reduction if you do!
BT offers a standard ADSL package with an average speed of 10Mbps (which is in line with most other UK providers). However, as we've mentioned above, it's only available it you can't access fibre broadband.
For most people, BT also has three fibre deals, with speeds averaging 36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67Mbps, all of which come with the brand’s much celebrated Smart Hub router (standard broadband is offered with the less advanced Home Hub 4).
All of their deals come with BT Virus Protect, BT Parental Controls and of course unlimited usage.
You can now choose whether to have a landline, but if you do any calls you do make will be charged on a pay as you go basis, which can be expensive if you use it regularly.
Broadband and phone
If you do choose to have a landline, then the provider offers three landline phone packages, all of which come with the option of diverting nuisance calls with BT Call Protect.
Unlimited weekend calls: This package covers all calls to UK landline numbers at weekends, defined as the period between midnight on Friday and midnight on Sunday.
Unlimited evening and weekend calls: This package covers all calls to UK landline numbers at weekends (hours as above) and between 7pm and 7am every weekday.
Unlimited anytime calls: The priciest of BT’s landline deals, this package covers calls to UK landline numbers at any time, on any day. Calls to BT Mobile phones are also free at all times.
If you regularly use a landline to make international calls, you can add these to any package for an additional fee, along with other optional extras like caller display, call waiting and BT Answer 1571.
Broadband and TV
BT TV is only available to their broadband customers, and the brand has four options to choose from and all come with a recordable YouView G4 box.
The Entertainment option gives you access to Freeview channels along with Sky Atlantic, Discovery and a NOW Entertainment Membership. Big Entertainment bundle adds all the Sky Cinema via a NOW Cinema Membership
With the Sport option you'll get all the four BT Sport channels plus BoxNation, the Premier League, all the UEFA Champions League games (which are actually exclusive to BT Sport), Premiership rugby and lots more. Plus Freview of course.
Big Sport provides all of the above plus the full set of 11 Sky Sports channels meaning more Premiership football, Formula 1 races, major golf tournaments and all the benefits of a NOW Sports Membership – including Eurosport 1 and 2.
Finally, you can go all out with BT's VIP TV package, which basically gives you the whole lot in full HD and a NOW Boost which includes Sky Sports HD and Sky Altlantic HD.
You can add any of these to your broadband package as you wish once you've selected your broadband plan on the BT site.
Find out what to watch on BT TV.
Broadband and mobile
You won’t be able to combine your broadband and mobile as a bundle, but there are incentives to have both from the provider. For example, their customers get a £5 a month discount on mobile plans.
Broadband, TV and phone
For total convenience, some customers go for combined broadband, TV and landline phone provision. The brand has some great deals available that combine the three services, though it’s not possible to include BT mobile phone provision to complete the full set. BT usually has three ready made bundles which feature their Fibre 2 Broadband along with one of the TV options.
What speeds does BT offer?
The provider offers one standard ADSL broadband deal and a choice of three fibre broadband deals, each with a different average download speed. All of them, at any speed, feature unlimited data allowances. On top of these are the newer FTTP Full Fibre packages, if you can get them.
BT standard broadband
The most affordable package offers average download speeds of 10Mbps, similar to those provided by most other UK broadband companies. This should be fast enough for individuals, couples or smaller households who use the internet to browse social media, shop, stream music and watch catch-up TV - but it may struggle to meet the needs of larger households where everyone uses the internet at once or people stream HD content. Again, this is only available from BT if you can't access fibre broadband.
£32.99 p/m£19.99 one-off cost See Deal
- 10Mb average speed
- Unlimited usage
BT Fibre Essential
Its basic fibre package, Fibre Essential, has respectable average speeds of 36Mbps. If you want an upgrade on a standard deal, but don’t need superfast speeds, this is the right package for you. Like the standard deal, it also comes with the Smart Hub router, their stay-fast guarantee, and Virus Protection for up to two devices.
BT Fibre Essential
£27.99 p/m£9.99 one-off cost See Deal
- 36Mb average speed
- Unlimited usage
- No phone line
BT Fibre 1
For only a small price increase, the Fibre 1 deal offers a much better average speed than the basic Fibre Essential package, clocking in at an average of 50Mbps. It’s ideal for larger households of three or more people who watch HD TV, play games online and download large files like albums and movies - even if these things are happening simultaneously. It also comes with the brand’s famous Smart Hub router, 200GB of BT cloud storage and Virus Protection for up to two devices.
BT Fibre 1
£60 Reward Card£28.99 p/m£9.99 one-off cost See Deal
- 50Mb average speed
- Unlimited usage
- No phone line
BT Fibre 2
If your large and busy household needs very fast download speeds and streams 4K TV regularly, the provider’s fastest widely available service is well worth a look, with average speeds of 67Mbps. Fibre 2 isn’t cheap, but should future proof a home where kids are turning into teenagers, and everyone’s vying for the internet connection from a different room. The ISP sweetens the deal with some great extras including Virus Protection for up to 15 devices.
BT Fibre 2
£120 Reward Card£32.99 p/m£9.99 one-off cost See Deal
- 67Mb average speed
- Unlimited usage
- No phone line
BT Full Fibre: 100, 300 and 900Mbps
BT Full Fibre is the same as fibre to the home (FTTH) or fibre to the premises (FTTP) products – essentially it's fibre all the way to your door, rather being slowed by old fashioned telephone cables between you and the cabinet. It's still somewhat on the expensive side, and availability in the UK is still limited but, especially with Openreach's UK network, it's growing fast. To find out if you can get BT's fastest broadband speeds where you live, use our BT postcode checker.
What speed do I need for streaming?
When it comes to streaming HD content, downloading large files or regular online gaming, a fibre broadband deal is usually required and BT offer download speeds of 36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67Mpbs. The two slower speeds should meet the needs of most medium to large households where multiple users need an internet connection at the same time. For even bigger, busier households with 4K ultra-high definition TV, then Fibre 2 or even a Fast Fibre broadband deal is the way to go.
What speed do I need for gaming?
For online gaming, it’s not necessary to have internet speeds as high as many people believe. In fact, Xbox Live claims that a speed of just 3Mbps (less than what’s typically provided by most standard / ADSL broadband deals) is sufficient.
We believe that an optimum online gaming experience can only be achieved with download speeds of at least 20Mbps, particularly if you want to download digital games reasonably quickly – some of which are over 100GB in size. This means you’ll need a fibre broadband connection, and any of the three main fibre deals will suffice.
If you need more information about choosing the right broadband speed for your needs, use our broadband speed guide.
Installation and what to expect
If a landline is already installed at your property, which is likely, your service could be up and running within a couple of days – 14 at most. It’s also likely that you won’t have to pay any connection or reconnection charges.
If your property doesn’t have a landline connection (and you want one), then an engineer might need to visit to install one. This means your internet service could take up to 21 days to get up and running. But if you're chosing to opt out of a line, then things should move more quickly.
The provider will confirm how long installation will take when you place an order, agree a date for your services to be installed and tell you whether or not an engineer needs to come to your home.
Installation costs for their fibre broadband are usually quite reasonalble, and the brand sometimes offers special deals that waive installation costs entirely. There's usually also a one-off delivery charge of £9.99 for your router, which will be sent out via Royal Mail. Although they sometimes waive this too.
It’s worth keeping in mind that BT isn’t known for the speed of its broadband installation, so if you’re looking for a superfast turnaround, another provider may be a better fit.
If you’d like more information on all aspects of broadband installation, our guide to installing broadband will tell you everything you need to know.
What router will I get?
When you sign up to a contract with the provider, you receive a router as part of the deal. The router you get depends on the package.
BT Home Hub 4: When you sign up to a standard ADSL Broadband or Fibre Essential package, you’ll receive the Home Hub 4. This router is a dual band 802.22ac router with 7 antennas. It also has a USB port and 4 gigabit LAN ports.
BT Smart Hub 2: If you sign up to either the Fibre 1 or Fibre 2 deal, you’ll be sent the Smart Hub 2. It’s a second generation of the original Smart Hub and features 7 antennas, which is give you a massive range of WiFi signal throughout your home.
How to set up your WiFi router
Setting up a WiFi network at home using a router isn’t difficult. In most cases, in fact, all you need to do is plug it in and you’re away!
Our guide to setting up a WiFi will take you through the process, step-by-step.
What else is available from BT?
Along with their broadband packages and combined broadband, landline phone and TV deals, the provider offers some powerful extras and incentives, including:
Stay fast guarantee: Enjoy a specified minimum download speed with your internet service, or claim back £20 (terms and conditions apply).
BT Virus Protect: The ISP’s own virus protection software, included free of charge for a specified number of devices on all broadband deals, standard or fibre.
BT Complete WiFi: An extra monthy charge provides a 'WiFi Disc' which works with your Smart Hub to guarantee connectivity in every room of your home, or you can claim £100 back (obviously some terms and conditions will apply).
BT Hybrid Connect: Another extra charge provides what BT describes as 'unbreakable wifi'. As mentioned earlier, it's basically a fall-back onto EE's mobile broadband network should your home broadband let you down. But it should act completley seemlessly, so you won't even know it's doing it's thing. You could make the case that the broadband shouldn't fail in the first place, but it does give you some added peace of mind – especially if a constant connnection is absolutely essential.
BT email: All of their packages offer users free access to the BT Mail service, with a personal email address ending in @btinternet.com. Features include a browser-based mail service that can be accessed internationally, up to ten email addresses for family and friends and advanced email security, including antispam and antivirus features.
BT cloud storage: All of their deals come with free cloud storage, enabling users to back up their photos, videos and files safely on the cloud and access them from any location or device. Most packages offer 200GB. Additional space can be purchased if needed.
WiFi hotspots across the UK: The provider boasts millions of WiFi hotspots across the UK, and as a customer, you’ll have access to all of these. No matter where you are, this means you’ll be able to get online instantly, free of charge.
Can I get BT broadband in my area?
Our postcode checker will instantly tell you which service is available in your area. Happily, BT is on offer in most parts of the UK.
About BT broadband
BT is the UK’s biggest and arguably best-known broadband provider. It’s also the world’s oldest communications company, with roots that go back to The Electric Telegraph Company, founded in 1846.
Today, the group bt.com includes Openreach, which owns and maintains the UK’s biggest broadband network, Yorkshire-based broadband provider Plusnet and EE, which was the subject of a £12.5bn takeover in 2016.
This page will tell you everything you need to know about BT broadband, TV and landline phone services – what’s on offer, whether the provider is right for you, and what to expect in terms of equipment, installation, customer service and more.
We’ll also show you the best deals currently available from the brand, if you’re looking to make a switch.
If you need some help with your service, there are several ways to go about this. You can ask the provider a question via their website, browse their online help section for similar issues or contact BT directly, via Live Chat.
BT Customer Service, with teams based in the UK and Ireland, can also be reached by phone on 0800 800150. You’ll be able to speak to someone between 8am and 9pm from Monday to Friday, 8am until 8pm on Saturday and between 9am and 6pm on Sundays.