BT is perhaps the best-known telecoms provider in the UK, offering a full range of services from broadband – both standard and fibre – to home phone (of course), and more recently TV and mobile. But is it the right provider for you? Let’s take a look.
There are only a limited number of providers in the UK who can offer you the full monty (broadband, TV, home phone and mobile), and BT is one of them. Such providers are known as ‘quad-play’ in the business and right now there are only three of them in the UK – BT, Virgin Media and Sky.
There are a number of advantages to getting all your services from one provider. Only having to worry about one bill is one. Another is that most providers – BT included – offer discounts and other incentives to do so. In BT’s case, that means cheap TV for broadband customers and cheap BT Mobile SIMs for BT broadband and TV customers. The more services you get, the better value for money it becomes.
With the exception of Virgin Media, BT offers some of the fastest speeds currently available, with 150 Mbps, 500Mbps and even 900Mbps available in some areas, and also offers a very wide range of speeds. For those still unable to get fibre, BT still offers standard broadband at 10Mbps, whereas customers able to get fibre can choose from the widely available 36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67Mbps speeds.
BT wi-fi hotspots are literally everywhere thanks to the way BT deploys them. You can find them in obvious-choice commercial locations such as coffee shops and other highstreet retail locations, but that’s not why there are such a ludicrous number of them.
No, what BT does is auto-enroll all its new customers in its ‘BT FON’ (formerly known as BT Openzone) wi-fi programme. What this does is allows your router – but not your home network – to be temporarily used for internet access by other BT broadband customers provided they’re in range. BT limits the bandwidth guests can use so this should never affect your home connection adversely.
BT Parental Controls are available right from the start. To set them up all you need to do is log into your ‘My BT’ account and click the ‘Manage BT Parental Controls’ link. By default they’ll filter out most of the potentially harmful stuff, but if you want you can change the filter levels to catch other stuff you might not want your kids exposed to as well – gambling and file sharing, for example.
In addition, BT will also provide you with BT Virus Protect – which you will then have to manually install onto your devices so they’ll be protected wherever they go and on whichever network you connect them to. Built in conjunction with McAfee it’s free to all BT broadband customers.
BT Web Protect does largely the same things as BT Virus Protect with one key difference: rather than protect a specific device wherever you deem to take it, it protects only devices connected to your network. That is, it’ll scan all incoming files and simply block anything that looks suspicious before it’s passed on to any of your devices. BT Web Protect is also free to all BT broadband customers.
A lot of this goes on BT’s own claims of course, but provided BT’s test results are correct, the key difference between its Smart Hub router and those of its close competitors is one of range. The BT Smart Hub, allegedly, reaches further and through a greater number of internal walls from the routers. All we can say is that our experience of it is that it’s a very solid performer, and, as BT is keen to point out, it’ll even fit through your letterbox.
BT’s recent deal with NOW TV means that BT is now up there in the top TV providers, able to offer premium channels, including Sky Atlantic, as part of the NOW Entertainment Membership. NOW Entertainment pack also comes with Sky Box Sets, offering over 300 TV shows. All BT’s TV packs come with exclusive channel AMC, as well as the standard Freeview channels, so you can still access all the terrestrial channels such as BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
BT TV packages also come with a Netflix Basic subscription, giving you access to hundreds more comedies, dramas, movies and documentaries. As well as NOW TV Entertainment, BT TV customers can also choose to bolt on NOW TV Sport and NOW TV Cinema to further bolster viewing options.
BT Sport continues to be an essential purchase for sports fans, offering UEFA Champions League football, Premier League football, rugby, UFC, boxing, MotoGP and loads more. Customers wanting BT Sport have a choice – to sign up to a BT TV pack that includes BT Sport, such as the basic Sport pack, the Big Sport pack (which also comes with Sky Sport) or the VIP pack (which includes everything). Alternatively you can choose to bolt on BT Sport to a TV pack of your choice for a rolling monthly fee.
Confused? We don’t blame you. Of all the major providers, BT’s TV and sport offerings are the most difficult to penetrate. Just remember that regardless of the package you sign up for, you will get the same, newest TV box, the BT TV Box Pro, which is 4K HDR ready (for customers wanting access to BT Sport Ultimate), and enables you to record up to 600 hours of TV across four channels at once.
BT Halo 3 is an add-on to BT fibre broadband and BT Mobile services. For an extra monthly fee, in addition to your BT Smart Hub 2, you will receive a mobile Mini Hub, powered by EE mobile, which automatically kicks in should your cabled BT broadband go down, meaning you will never lose connectivity. It also comes with Complete W-Fi – a system of up to four discs that create a mesh network around your home, ensuring that even the furthest point from your router has a good wi-fi signal.
Typically if you have a fault that must be addressed by an engineer, it can take anything from a few days to several weeks to isolate and fix the problem, during which time you would be without broadband. BT Halo subscribers won’t have to wait. Instead, BT will immediately connect you to the BT Mini Hub, which will serve as your home internet via EE’s 4G network while you wait for the repair.
BT Halo also gives existing BT Mobile customers double their data allowance – proving yet another layer of protection against loss of connectivity.
Of course, there’s an argument to be made that you shouldn’t have to pay extra for a high-quality wi-fi signal or reliable fault repair, but if these things are important to you, then it’s probably worth the additional expense.
BT would ideally like you and your whole family to be using BT Mobile SIMs. Of course it would! That’s why it incentivises its SIMs by offering a 20% discount on the second, third, fourth and fifth SIM you take out. In addition, existing BT broadband customers get a regular £5 discount on all BT SIMs.
There is little to criticize about BT’s offering, apart from the fact that it remains relatively expensive compared to some of its competitors. BT is a decent provider, make no mistake, but it does trade on its brand somewhat to charge (in some cases) considerably more than many of its competitors.
Every broadband and TV provider has its own way of doing things. For example, Virgin Media tends to offer a premium service with vastly superior internet speeds at discounted introductory prices, and Sky tends to offer great TV at reasonable prices with smaller amounts of upfront cashback.
BT’s way is relatively high monthly premiums, often with cashback or vouchers offered as upfront incentives. It’s very easy to get carried away by the appeal of large sums of cashback while not paying close enough attention to what its services cost monthly. Generally you’ll pay more for BT than you will for comparable services from other providers.
BT standard broadband is available pretty much everywhere – anywhere there’s a phone line, basically. BT Superfast Fibre (formerly known as BT Infinity), meanwhile, is available to around 97% of UK residential properties. Superfast Fibre includes BT’s 36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67Mbps average speed packages.
BT also offers a range of Full Fibre speeds up to 900Mbps. It does so, however, to only a small number of UK homes and has not as yet released any information as to where and to whom specifically it’s available. If you want to try your luck, you can do so on BT’s website, but if it’s speeds over 100Mbps you’re after, you’re much more likely to be able to get that from Virgin Media.
As well as standard (ADSL) broadband, BT offers six different fibre speeds, a full-blown subscription TV service in the form of BT TV, its own sports coverage on BT Sport and a plethora of SIMs and handset deals via BT Mobile. And, of course, you can save a bundle and unlock various customer perks by subscribing to all of the above at once.
BT Broadband is an ADSL (standard, non-fibre broadband) service averaging 10Mbps. With that speed you’ll be fine doing regular day-to-day stuff like surfing the internet, online banking, downloading apps, social media and streaming movies and TV, even in high definition.
If you have more than one TV, a large household with many users and/or a 4K TV and some sort of 4K streaming service, or there are folk in your household who enjoy gaming, you’re going to need fibre. BT Superfast Fibre (formerly known as BT Infinity) is available at average speeds of 36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67Mbps.
Customers living in Full Fibre areas (also known as pure fibre) can enjoy BT’s fastest broadband speeds, with a choice of 150Mbps, 500Mbps and 900Mbps. To find out if you are in one of these areas, simply enter your postcode at the top of this page.
BT TV offers several different TV bundles, all of which have the standard Freeview channels as a basis with a choice of NOW TV memberships on top. The Entertainment bundle comes with Freeview channels, NOW TV Entertainment (including Sky Atlantic), AMC and a Netflix Basic plan. A step up brings you Big Entertainment, which also comes with NOW TV Cinema, or for customers wanting the full shebang, there is the VIP bundle. This comes with NOW TV Cinema, NOW TV Entertainment, Netflix Standard, Sky Sports and BT Sports.
If you’re after BT Sport in particular, you can either choose the VIP bundle or just bolt BT Sport on to another TV bundle on a rolling monthly basis. You can also sign up for the BT Sport or Big Sport bundles. BT Sport offers a bunch of dedicated sports channels delivering Champions League and Premier League football amid a host of other sports from rugby to MotoGP. To watch BT Sport Ultimate, you will need to sign up to the VIP bundle in order to watch in UHD (and also have a UHD ready TV).
BT Mobile offers a wide range of 5G-ready SIM only and pay monthly handset deals. There are various discounts and benefits for switching to BT Mobile if you also sign up to BT broadband and/or TV, including a fiver off your bill every month.
Relatively speaking, BT is expensive. However, we would say that with BT you get rather more for your money than you do with any of the plethora of budget broadband providers out there. Nor does it offer as much bang-for-buck as Virgin Media when it comes to broadband speed. It is, however, a premium offering in terms of the quality of equipment, service and extras you’ll get as standard. Only you can decide if that’s worth the prices you’re looking at.
Yes. BT will always be happy to hear from you if your intention is to take out a faster speed or more services. However, like many broadband providers, just remember that substantially altering the services you receive may require you to sign a new contract, which would reset your contract period.
Yes and no. BT does not currently offer any TV-only deals – you have to have broadband to get BT TV. However, if you just want to watch BT SPort, you can do so in a number of other ways, including via Sky or Virgin Media, or through the BT Sport app.
Yes, if it’s within the first 14 days of your service. Beyond that, you will have to receive consistently unfit-for-purpose services and give Virgin Media every opportunity to fix it. If it fails to address your problem, you have the right to leave free of charge. One quirk of Virgin Media is that you cannot leave your contract mid-term if you move house – even to somewhere where Virgin Media services aren’t available. If this sounds terrifically unfair that’s because it is. Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, is currently looking into this issue.
All BT contracts are currently 24 months. Typically, broadband and TV providers offer contracts of 12 or 18 months with a few rare exceptions where special terms apply. BT’s contracts are at the longer end of the spectrum. Be certain you are going to need its services for that long before signing up or you may be facing hefty early exit fees oif you change your mind.
Sometimes there are substantial connection fees when signing up to a new fibre connection;, other times BT waives these fees – it all depends on what you sign up to and when. Luckily the comparison table on this page makes it absolutely clear what you’ll be paying up front on any given day.
Yes. You will have a 14-day cooling-off period in which you can leave without penalty if you’re either not happy with or no longer want the service. After those 14 days have passed things become trickier, however. If your broadband and TV service is particularly poor and cannot be fixed by BT then you have grounds to leave without penalty. Alternatively you’ll be able to leave if BT puts up its prices mid-contract – which is very common.
Yes. You can add it for an additional monthly fee or choose a bundle that contains it already, such as Big Sport or VIP.
Yes. Provided you can get the mobile coverage, Virgin Media offers MiFi dongles and data plans.
Yes, Virgin Media has around 3.5 million mobile hotspots around the UK and there is an app to help Virgin Media customers find them called Virgin Media Connect.