BT is now a major player in the mobile world, offering contract deals for handsets, SIM-only deals and regular discounts for existing BT broadband customers. It operates over the EE network, which BT actually owns but continues to run as a separate brand, and comes with access to millions of free BT wifi hotspots. So how does it fare against the competition in 2020?
A lot has changed since BT first told us that it’s good to talk. Landlines are just sat gathering dust while people chat, text, browse and stream on their mobiles. BT now wants us to be doing all those things on its network and offers a range of tariffs on contract, SIM-only deals, tablets, the lot. Let's take a look.
BT offers a range of contract and SIM-only deals, but you have to be a broadband customer to get its cheapest prices. At the time of writing, BT broadband customers automatically get a discount each month and this situation, as at the start of 2020, has now persisted for nearly two years.
It has a wide range of data offerings, but strangely there is still no unlimited option. That is odd these days since most providers do offer one – it is rapidly becoming the norm. However, all contracts and SIM-only deals do come with free minutes and texts.
The lowest data plan comes with just 1GB of data. The plans become more interesting on the higher levels, as you get free BT Sport through the BT app. This gives you access to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa league matches, plus top games from the Premier League and FA Cup to watch solely on your phone – for which you will need a sizeable amount of data. 100GB is the top data cap for BT Mobile at the time of writing.
BT's SIM-only plans all come on a 12-month contract – there are no 30-day options on offer. There are several data options available, ranging from minimal to generous, which should cover the requirements of most customers.
The BT Family SIM is a money-saving scheme whereby if more than one member of your household is using BT Mobile, you can claim a reduced price for each additional SIM. Plus, while the first Family SIM has a 12-month contract, any extras are on 30-day rolling plans, so you can cancel or chop and change at any time without penalty. (However, note that if you want BT Sport on a SIM-only deal you would need to purchase a monthly add-on.)
BT offers premium phones from Apple, Samsung, Google, SonyOnePlus and Huawei, as well as some cheaper options from Doro, Motorola and Nokia. That said, it seems to restrict the choice to the latest models.
This means you can typically get your hands on the latest or last couple of iPhones or Samsung Galaxy models for example, but there is less of the back catalogue than you could get with some other networks, which is a shame, since phones that are one or two years since release tend to offer the best value for money.
BT Mobile doesn’t appear in Ofcom’s customer satisfaction surveys but does feature in separate Ofcom reports on complaints. The network had 29 complaints per 100,000 customers in the latest Ofcom data as of the fourth quarter of 2018, putting making it the third most complained about mobile provider.
If you do have concerns, BT customer service is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week over the phone and it offers live chat on its website.
BT offers good value with free minutes and texts, albeit with no choice of contract length. Its upfront handset costs are also pretty low, but it isn’t necessarily the cheapest network for a contract, especially as it predominantly offers top-of-the range handsets and especially if you're not a BT broadband and phone customer.
It can offer good value on its SIM-only deals. If you are on a Family SIM plan, the more you buy, the more you save. Plus, if you aren’t happy with a SIM-only or Family SIM plan within the first 30 days, BT says it will give your money back.
The network does offer some interesting extras that provide added value such as BT Sport on its app for uses on data deals above 10GB, unlimited internet access at any of its five million wi-fi hotspots, as well as parental controls. It also often has incentives such as cashback or BT Reward Cards on offer as well as online discounts, so it is worth keeping an eye on deals, especially if you can get the £5 monthly discount as a BT broadband customer in addition.
BT uses the EE network, giving customers the widest 4G coverage in the UK. You can use the BT Mobile postcode checker to see the type of signal you will get in your area and the strength of the coverage. BT lets you search for a postcode or place and see how well it is covered both indoors and outdoors.
The 2G coverage will show how clear your calls will be and how fast your texts will send, while the 3G checker will give you an idea of how good your signal will be for browsing the web, sending emails and uploading or downloading documents should you not be somewhere you can receive 4G. The ultimate aim is 4G coverage as this gives you better speeds for streaming and browsing online, and happily you can get 4G pretty much everywhere provided you're not in the middle of nowhere.
BT Mobile offers plenty of contract or SIM-only choices and customers benefit from unlimited calls and minutes. The lack of unlimited data deals is a bit of a let-down in 2020, and you need to be a broadband customer to get the cheapest rates, but there are still decent packages on offer. It's also a cheaper way of getting BT Sport, which is thrown in on the bigger data deals, along with access to wi-fi hotspots.
The biggest savings can be made on the SIM-only deals. If you have a handset already or are buying one from elsewhere, you could save money by just purchasing a SIM, and the savings increase with the more that you buy. SIM-only customers don’t get BT Sport automatically on anything below a 10GB data limit, but you still get the unlimited BT Wi-fi on the move.
You should be assured of a decent phone signal as BT uses EE’s extensive 4G network, and seeing as both are now part of the same brand, they should be able to work together nicely.
Overall, the SIM-only deals are an appealing option, especially if you need more than one, and even more so if you're a BT broadband customer and when there are generous BT Reward Cards to be had.