BT vs Sky - A side-by-side review of broadband, TV & phone
BT and Sky are two of the UK’s foremost providers of digital TV, broadband and home phone services, but in many ways, that’s where the similarity ends. Sky is renowned for its TV services, but can BT compete in other areas?
Here the providers go head to head on their respective broadband, TV and phone offerings, along with any extras and the quality of customer service. Let the battle commence.
At a glance
BT offers several standard and fibre broadband packages, many of which come bundled with a landline calls plan. Also included is the BT Home Hub wireless router along with unlimited access to the UK’s largest public wi-fi network. BT’s fastest available package is up to 300Mbps, but only a tiny proportion of the UK population can access this sort of speed. BT’s fastest widely available package has speeds of up to 76Mbps, which is the same as Sky’s fastest package.
Sky offers two standard broadband and three fibre broadband products. Sky has three speeds: 17Mb, 38Mb and 76Mb. They come bundled with weekend calls as standard, a Sky Hub wireless router and, with the exception of Sky Broadband Lite, unlimited access to The Cloud network of public wi-fi hotspots. Sky’s wi-fi network is nowhere near as extensive as BT’s, covering around 20,000 locations rather than the millions covered by BT.
BT offers three TV packages to new customers – Starter, Entertainment Starter and Entertainment Plus – that can only be accessed when taken in conjunction with BT broadband and phone. Starter comes with up to 70 Freeview channels, a Youview box and catch up TV. Entertainment Starter includes everything Starter has, but comes with an extra 20 entertainment channels, including Comedy Central and SyFy. Entertainment Plus comes with an extra 25 channels and a Youview+ box, which allows you to record as well as watch your favourite shows. Bear in mind you have to take BT Infinity in order to get the Entertainment packs. Plus, the BT Sport Pack (BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, ESPN and BT Sport Europe) comes free with all BT TV packages.
The Essentials and Entertainment Max packages are only available to existing customers. Essentials is the same as Starter, but comes with a YouView+ box. Entertainment Max comes with 25 extra channels including HD Extra, Kids Extra and a YouView+ box.
Sky TV is a more complete digital TV offering. It can be taken either as a standalone service or in a bundle with Sky broadband and home phone calls. Whichever option you choose you’ll get a Sky+ box for free. The basic package – The Original Bundle – features over 240 free-to-air channels, including Freeview, plus 35 entertainment channels including Sky One and Sky Atlantic. The Variety Bundle comes with everything the Original Bundle features, but with 75 entertainment channels. The Family Bundle, comes with on demand box sets, Sky 3D and over 50 HD channels. All of Sky’s bundles can be further enhanced with Sky Sports and Sky Movies.
If you want the full works you can opt for Sky's premium bundle – The Complete Bundle. It comes with over 90 channels including Sky Sports and Sky Movies. You'll also get access to 73 HD channels, Box Sets on demand and Sky 3D.
BT line rental is £16.99 per month and includes unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines and 0845 & 0870 numbers, and you have the option to pay extra to add anytime calls. However, if you fail to make at least two qualifying calls in any given month you will be fined £2. BT holds an important advantage over Sky in that it offers a line rental saver option, which means you can pay a full year’s line rental in advance with one payment of £169.90, saving yourself £33.98.
Sky line rental costs £16.40 per month, which means an annual cost of £184.80. You’ll get inclusive weekend calls to UK landlines and 0870 numbers, or you can pay to upgrade this to anytime calls. Any bundle that includes calls and broadband requires you to pay line rental to Sky.
Home phone lies at the heart of BT’s business, and whichever services you choose to sign up for you’ll have to pay line rental at £16.99 per month or £169.90 in advance per year. On top of that you can add BT services in the following combinations: home phone only, broadband and phone or broadband, TV and phone. BT’s bundles operate on a pyramid. To get broadband, you need a home phone (landline). To get BT TV you need broadband and a home phone – all of which must be taken from BT.
There is a little more flexibility with Sky packages with the option to take TV on its own. Bear in mind that for any Sky bundle that includes calls or broadband you will be required to pay line rental at £16.40 per month. Sky services are available in the following combinations: TV only; broadband and phone without TV; TV and phone without broadband; and TV, broadband and phone. Sky customers have much greater scope for bundling their services.
Sky bundles are competitively priced, and you get more for your money than with BT, but there is a catch; if you live outside the Sky network area you’ll pay more for a basic broadband package.
Which packages are available in my area?
Ofcom frequently rates the customer satisfaction levels of broadband, TV and home phone providers in its reports. BT took a bit of a battering in Ofcom’s latest report, which revealed that the provider rated beneath the industry average for customer satisfaction. Even worse, the latest complaints figures from Ofcom show that BT had more complaints in than any provider other than TalkTalk. So overall, BT hasn’t done great in this department.
Sky performed significantly better than BT across all measurable standards in the same Ofcom reports. Sky rated above average in terms of customer satisfaction, and Ofcom’s recent complaints report shows that Sky has one of the lowest rates of customer complaints of any provider other than Virgin Media. In this respect, Sky far outshines BT.
There’s a whole raft of extras available when you sign up to BT. Broadband customers (and anyone with BT TV) will get access to cloud storage and parental controls. BT TV customers get entirely free access to the BT Sport Pack, however broadband customers will have to pay an extra £5 per month through the online player or on Sky TV. If you don't want to purchase the pack you'll still get BT Sport 1 for free. You'll also get free use of any BT hotspot in the UK. There are millions of these BT hotspots knocking around the country too, so can be a great way to get online with your mobile device when you’re away from home. BT broadband customers can also get a 4G BT Mobile SIM at a discounted price.
Sky customers also get a bunch of extras - but not as many as those with BT. Sky TV can be thoroughly enhanced with extra channels, such as Sky Sports and Sky Movies (though don’t forget, you’ll have to pay), and you get Sky’s mobile online player Sky Go for free. Broadband customers will get parental controls through the much-touted Sky Shield software. You can also get online for free with Sky wi-fi hotspots. But as these hotspots only number in the thousands, rather than the millions, this service pales in comparison to BT’s.
BT has the edge over Sky when it comes to offering extras like pubic wi-fi hotspots, while it also offers a line rental saver, which saves you £33.98 for paying 12 months in advance. Plus you’ll get the BT Sport Pack for free if you are a BT TV customer.
Sky is the clear winner when it comes to TV channel choice and customer service, and has truly unlimited downloads on its broadband. However, these two heavyweight providers are equally matched when it comes to widely available download speed.
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