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 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 a pay-as-you-talk plan 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.
BT offers three TV packages to new customers – Starter, Entertainment Plus and Entertainment Ultra HD – that have to be taken with BT broadband and phone. The BT Sport Pack (BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, ESPN and BT Sport Europe) comes free with all BT TV packages.
Starter comes with around 80 Freeview channels, a basic Youview box and catch up TV. Entertainment Plus comes with an extra 25 channels and a Youview+ box (if you purchase unlimited BT Infinity), which allows you to record TV. Entertainment Ultra HD has around an extra 47 premium channels including BT Sport Europe in UHD. Note that you have to take BT Infinity in order to get the Entertainment packs.
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 around 47 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. All Sky’s bundles can be further enhanced with Sky Sports and Sky Movies.
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 an additional 75 entertainment channels. The Family Bundle, comes with on demand box sets, Sky 3D and over 50 HD channels.
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. You have the option to pay extra to add anytime calls. BT offers a line rental saver option, which means you can pay a full year’s line rental of £183.48 in advance, saving yourself £20.40.
Sky line rental costs £16.40 per month, which means an annual cost of £196.80. You’ll automatically get a pay-as-you-talk plan, or you can pay to upgrade to Evenings and Weekends Extra, which gives you free calls to UK landlines, mobiles and 0870 numbers in the evenings and at weekends, or to Anytime Extra.
If you have family and friends who live abroad you can go for the International Extra call plan. Everything is the same as Anytime Extra but you'll also get inclusive international minutes to 50 destinations. 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 £183.48 in advance per year. On top of that you can add other BT services. 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 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?
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.
BT Broadband customers (and anyone with BT TV) will get access to cloud storage and parental controls. BT TV customers get free access to the BT Sport Pack, however BT broadband-only customers 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.
Customers also get free use of any BT hotspot in the UK. There are millions of these BT hotspots around the country, so it can be a great way to get online with your mobile device when you’re away from home, without using up your mobile data. BT broadband customers can get a 4G BT Mobile SIM at a discounted price.
Sky TV can be enhanced with 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, although these are fewer in number than 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 £20.40 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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