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BT broadband versus TalkTalk broadband – Which is best?

By Marc Shoffman
Tuesday, February 20th 2018

It's time for a good, old-fashioned showdown. In the blue corner is BT, the market leader and probably the best-known brand in telecoms. In the purple 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 pretty good speeds and respectable packages. Here’s how the two broadband behemoths measure up against each other.


There isn’t much difference between BT and TalkTalk when it comes to speed. BT offers three speeds. You can get the basic of up to 17Mbps, the mid-range 52Mbps or more premium target of 76Mbps. TalkTalk has three speeds: 17Mbps, 38Mbps and 76Mbps.

It's worth noting, though, that BT and TalkTalk’s broadband customers reported lower-than-average levels of satisfaction with their online speed at 80% and 71% respectively in the latest rating from 2016.


BT probably just tips it on the speed battle as its mid-range package goes up to 52Mbps rather than TalkTalk’s 38Mbps, so if you can get that speed in your area you're off to a good start.


BT’s broadband proposition spans four packages. Its standard Unlimited Broadband offers up to 17Mbps and unlimited usage. Its faster Infinity fibre broadband offers speeds of up to 52Mbps, either with a 30GB allowance (slightly cheaper, but very restrictive), or there is an Unlimited Infinity option.

You can also get speeds of up to 76Mbps with Unlimited Infinity 2, which as the name suggests, also has no restrictions on usage. All the deal comes with BT line rental and unlimited UK weekend calls to 01, 02, 03, 0845 and 0870 numbers, excluding the Channel Islands, included as well as access to more than five million wifi hotspots. Your only contract choice is 18 months on all the deals though.

TalkTalk has a smaller choice but you can select your contract lengths. You can pick three packages: TalkTalk's standard Unlimited Broadband, as described, has no usage restrictions and offers speeds of up to 17Mbps. You can also get up to 38Mbps with TalkTalk Unlimited Fibre Broadband, or up to 76Mbps with its Faster Fibre package.

There is an extra deal If you happen to live in York. TalkTalk offers residents up to 1000Mbps speeds with its Fibre Optic page, which it is planning to expand across the UK. Unlike BT, TalkTalk customers can choose from 12, 18 and 24-month deals. All prices include line rental. You also get unlimited calls with TalkTalk but only to other users on its landlines for up to 180 minutes each month.


TalkTalk gets a special mention for providing flexibility on packages. BT is pretty restrictive as you are locked in for a minimum of 18 months. However, TalkTalk lets itself down with a pretty lousy standard calls package to its own landlines, while BT’s is broader.

Customer service

Both providers struggle for decent customer service. BT is among the most-complained-about broadband providers. As of 2016, it had 127 complaints per 100,000 broadband subscribers, which is above the industry average of 75. If you want to call them, you face an average call waiting time of just under 4 minutes, which is above the industry average of 2 minutes and 51 seconds.

The majority of customers are satisfied with the service, at 84 per cent. This may sound ok but it is actually below the industry average of 86 per cent. Just over half, 56%, are satisfied with how complaints were handled.

TalkTalk doesn’t fare much better. It has the worst record for complaints handling. As of 2016, just 51% were happy in this area. Its overall satisfaction levels are similar to BT at 83%, while you can expect to wait on the line for 47seconds, on average.

It has had 98 complaints per 100,000 subscribers and has been fined twice in the past for failing to protect customer data. If you do need to get in touch, TalkTalk offers live chat online or you can phone between 8am and 10pm on 0800 083 4313. There is also an option to write to them. BT’s customer service phone line runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it also offers live chat online.


It is a tough contest between these two as both have a lot of work to get their customer service up to scratch. BT may just get the win on this for having its customer service available around the clock.

Technology and equipment

BT’s standard broadband customers get its Home Hub. This offers a standard 5GHz and 2.4GHz channels plus four ethernet ports and a USB point. However, it goes one better for fibre broadband customers, giving them a Smart Hub. The BT Smart Hub constantly monitors your internet connection. If it spots a problem, it will quietly reboot and make a fresh connection.

It has seven antennaes to find the best frequencies for the top speeds and is also future proofed, so will be able to reach higher speeds than the current 76Mbps limit should BT ever offer faster deals. Similar to the Home Hub, you will also get four ethernet ports and a USB point.

TalkTalk doesn’t distinguish between customers when it comes to its router. Regardless of the speed or package you choose, all TalkTalk customers get a Super Router.

The router is able to spot and diagnose its own faults and checks the network hourly for interference and adjust its settings to provide the best possible connection all the time. It comes with three antennas and has 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies built in.


TalkTalk does well to treat all its customers the same when it comes to equipment but BT gets the praise on this one for its top hub that is ready for future as well as current speeds.


All BT broadband deals come with BT Virus Protect. This covers two devices comes as, except Unlimited Infinity 2 which comes with 15 devices. You also get parent controls and BT Cloud, which gives you 200GB free storage with Unlimited Broadband and Unlimited Infinity or 1TB for those on Unlimited BT Infinity 2.

It is worth keeping an eye on BT offers as they will often throw in attractive incentives such as access to BT Sport on its app or provide cashback on deals. TalkTalk’s deals come with anti-virus protection for one device; and access to TalkTalk TV Store with on-demand movies and TV content as well Netflix and BT Sport if you have a subscription.

Customers of TalkTalk also get HomeSafe parental controls for every connected device. TalkTalk goes a step further than BT for its new customers. If you're currently with BT, EE, PlusNet or Sky, it will tell your old provider that you are leaving. That means you can avoid that awkward phonecall to cancel your old broadband.


Getting help with your switch is a valuable service from TalkTalk, but you can’t beat extra storage and BT offers that in spades as well as the attraction of BT Sport if you can find a decent offer.


The winner is BT. Just. BT and TalkTalk are pretty much neck-and-neck when it comes to speed and service, although the latter is nothing much to write home about. BT just about wins out due to its extras. Customers can get extra storage, a router ready for faster speeds of the future so hopefully no upgrade costs, plus if you time it right you could get a good package that throws in cashback or BT Sport on its app.

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