Why choose BT?
By Dan Howdle | Wednesday, June 20th 2018
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.
- BT offers everything you need under one provider
- BT broadband is somewhat faster than many of its competitors
- Access to over 5 million wifi hotspots around the UK
- BT Virus Protect, BT Web Protect and BT Parental controls
- BT Smart Hub is one of the best routers out there
- BT TV and BT Sport offer exclusive content
- BT Plus means you won’t be without broadband even when it breaks down
- You can add cheap SIMs for the whole family on BT Mobile
BT offers everything you need under one provider
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 five of them in the UK – BT, Virgin Media, Sky, EE and Plusnet. TalkTalk would have been included in that list until it recently shut down its mobile division – TalkTalk Mobile.
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.
BT broadband is somewhat faster than many of its competitors
Until recently, broadband prices were advertised as ‘up to’ – theoretical maximums that only 10% of people had to be able to get for the number to be legitimately advertised. Now, as you can see from the comparison above, providers advertise the average speed customers subscribing to a particular package are likely to get.
BT’s averages are the same or a little higher than the majority of its competitors. In fact, until very recently, BT’s entry-level fibre packages were some 14Mbps faster than everyone else’s (barring Virgin Media which has its own network and offers far faster speeds than anyone). BT still offers an average 50Mbps for its entry -level unlimited fibre package, but it has also re-introduced its slower 36Mbps fibre offering with a 30GB usage limit.
Access to over 5 million wi-fi hotspots around the UK
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 high-street 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 Virus Protect, BT Web Protect and BT Parental controls
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.
BT Smart Hub is one of the best routers out there
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 it’s a very solid performer, and, as BT is keen to point out, it’ll even fit through your letterbox.
BT TV and BT Sport offer exclusive content
While it would be fair to say that BT TV doesn’t really stand up against the likes of Sky TV or Virgin TV, it does have a lot to offer if what you’re used to is just the basic terrestrial channels. For one thing, apart from the Starter+ Sport option, all BT TV packages offer a recordable YouView set-top box. At the top end, BT TV MAX is stuffed chock-full of 142 channels and also enables you to watch 4K UHD content on BT Sport Ultra HD.
BT Sport offers UEFA Champions League football, Premier League football, rugby, UFC, boxing, MotoGP and loads more for very little extra money. In fact, most of the time BT Sport is free if you’re signing up to BT TV, though you will still have to pay a little extra each month if you want the HD and/or UHD 4K channel(s), unless of course you’re going straight for the top-end MAX package.
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 unless you need that one 4K BT Sport channel (or if you're signing up to the basic Starter option) you’re getting the same set-top box anyway, so you can always upgrade if you’re getting less than you feel you need.
BT Plus means you won’t be without broadband even when it breaks down
BT Plus is a brand new add-on to BT fibre broadband and BT Mobile services. By subscribing to the top BT fibre package with the ‘Plus’ suffix on the end, you get access to certain privileges that nonplussed BT customers don’t. It costs extra than the standard Superfast Fibre 2 (quite a bit extra in our opinion), but you may feel its worth it for peace of mind and the extras on offer.
The first of these extras is a sort of broadband roadside breakdown cover. 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 Plus subscribers won’t have to wait. Instead, BT will immediately connect you to a BT Mini Hub, which will serve as your home internet via EE’s 4G network while you wait for the repair.
If you and/or your family are also on BT Mobile, those SIMs will be covered by BT Plus, too, and will automatically have their data caps removed in case of a fault with your home fibre broadband connection. BT Mobile customers will also receive double data on Plus as well as always having priority access to the fastest 4G signal.
Of course, there’s an argument to be made that you shouldn’t have to pay extra for high-quality fault cover. Whether or not BT Plus is worth the extra money to you, then, will largely come down to how many BT Mobile SIMs your family has and how much data each of them tends to use.
You can add cheap SIMs for the whole family on BT Mobile
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.
Downsides to choosing BT
- BT is comparatively expensive
- BT TV somewhat lacking compared to Sky or Virgin Media
BT is comparatively expensive
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 high monthly premiums, often with cashback or vouchers offered as upfront incentives. It’s very easy to get carried away with anything up to £200 (sometimes even more) 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 TV somewhat lacking compared to Sky or Virgin Media
It takes many years to build all the relationships needed to provide a comprehensive subscription TV service. It’s only fairly recently, in fact, that Virgin Media has caught up with Sky, making them joint leaders in terms of the comprehensiveness of their TV offering.
BT TV is plenty good – up to 142 channels on its MAX package – but it still has a long way to go to compete with the 400-500 channels available on Sky or Virgin Media.
Can I get BT?
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 100Mbps so-called ‘Ultrafast’ broadband (a misnomer, since the term ultrafast has a specific definition of anything over 300Mbps). It does so, however, to only a handful 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.
What does BT offer?
As wells as standard (ADSL) broadband, BT offers four marginally 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 and BT Superfast Fibre
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 36, 50 and 67Mbps. BT also offers a 100Mbps service though it is not yet widely available.
BT TV primarily offers a set-top box onto which you can record hundreds of hours of your favourite shows, as well as act as a Freeview streaming box. That’s what BT TV is really – mostly Freeview. Still, at the top end of BT TV packages you can expect 142 channels, scattered among some notable non-Freeview, so-called ‘Premium’ channels such as Sky One, Sky Two and AMC.
If you’re a BT TV customer you can also add on BT Sport. It offers a bunch of dedicated sports channels delivering Champions League and Premier League football amid a host of other sports from rugby to MotoGP. If you get BT TV MAX – BT’s top TV package – you’ll even get a set-top box capable of streaming 4K ultra-high definition content and delivering BT Sport’s 4K channel: BT Sport Ultra HD. You’ll need a 4K TV and a fast internet connection to watch it, though.
BT Mobile offers a wide range of SIM-only and pay monthly handset deals. There are various discounts and benefits for switching to BT Mobile if you’re already, or are signing up to, BT broadband and/or TV.
Frequently asked questions
How much is BT – is it expensive?
Yes. 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.
Can I upgrade my broadband speed if it’s not fast enough?
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.
Do I need broadband for BT TV and BT Sport?
Yes, and no. BT does not currently offer any TV-only deals – you have to have broadband to get BT TV. However, you can watch BT Sport in a number of other ways, including via Sky, Virgin Media or through the BT Sport app.
How long are BT contracts?
All BT contracts are currently 18 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.
Are there any set-up/activation fees?
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.
Can I get out of my contract if I’m not happy?
Yes. You will have a 14-day cooling-off period in which you can leave without penalty if you’re not happy with, or simply no longer want the service. After those 14 days have passed things become trickier, however. After that you’ll need very poor service which BT has been unable to fix if you’re to be able to walk away. Alternatively you’ll be able to leave if BT puts up its prices mid-contract – which is very common.
Can I get Sky Sports on BT TV?
Yes. You can add it for an additional monthly fee.
Can I watch Sky Cinema on BT?
Yes. You can add it for an additional monthly fee.
Does BT offer mobile broadband?
Yes. Provided you can get the mobile coverage, BT offers a ranger of 4G SIMs for tablets, dongles for laptops and 4G mobile hotspots to serve small mobile networks.