BT broadband review 2018
| Dan Howdle | Wednesday, June 20th 2018
Speeds – what's on offer?
BT's standard offering, simply called BT Broadband, offers speeds averaging 10Mbps and many people will find this is fast enough (it's good enough for Netflix in HD, for example). And, a key selling point is that it's widely available, covering about 99% of the UK's homes and businesses. For its entry-level fibre offering, Superfast Fibre Essential, BT offers an average 36Mbps, which is line with most other providers. All BT broadband and fibre customers also get free access to more than five million UK BT Wi-fi hotspots
BT has a broadband speed checker on its website which tells you the speeds you can expect on its services – handy to know before you commit. Faster speeds mean you can do more with your broadband connection and carry out more data-hungry tasks – such as streaming films or gaming – at the same time. In general, the more people in your household and the more gadgets everyone uses, the faster the speed you need.
BT Superfast Fibre 1 and 2
Fibre broadband is ideal for large households constantly online. Bt Superfast Fibre Essential offers 36Mbps - ideal for most households. With BT Superfast Fibre 1 (previously BT Infinity 1) you get a bit more speed, meaning you can share your connection with dozens of devices without any disruptions with its 50Mbps download speed. The only other provider offering 50Mbps is Virgin Media.
Superfast Fibre 2 offers speeds averaging 67Mbps. This is in line with most providers' top offering (again the notable exception is Virgin Media, which offers up to 350Mbps – five times as fast.
For most people, a fast fibre connection is more than quick enough. But if you want more, BT's got more to offer. The trouble is, it's super, super, super-fast connections aren't widely available. In fact, you'll be lucky to get them anywhere right now.
Superfast 3 and 4 are fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections, which means the fibre connection runs all the way to the customer's home rather than the cabinet in the street (FTTC). We won't go into all the technical detail here, but FTTP fibre is quicker than FTTC, which is what almost everyone offers right now.
BT Ultrafast is the next generation of broadband. Ultrafast is classed as anything above 100Mbps, and, as well as using FTTP, it will be delivered by G.Fast technology, which achieves amazingly high speeds from the same copper cables originally used for voice calls.
Where available, Ultrafast will deliver download speeds of 300Mbps and comes with a 100Mbps speed guarantee. However, Ultrafast 1 and 2 are only available in a select number of homes at the moment. You can register your interest and BT will tell you when it's available at your home, but right now you almost certainly can't get it. If you want those kinds of speeds, Virgin Media is your best option for the time being.
Upload speeds determine how long it takes to transfer content from your computer to the internet. Whether you're uploading a picture to Facebook, a video to YouTube or posting a tweet, speed will affect how long it will take.
Standard BT Broadband has an upload speed up to 2Mbps. Users with Superfast Fibre 1 get upload speeds up to 9.5Mpbs and Superfast Fibre 2 up to 19.5Mpbs. Where available, BT Ultrafast will give you an upload speed of 10Mbps.
BT's keen to tie customers in – it actively pushes its 18-month deals and you'll have to hunt around on its website to find 12-month deals or nine-month deals for students. Watch out for the price jump at the end of your committed period as it can increase significantly.
BT offers both triple-play (broadband, TV and phone) and quad-play (a mobile too) bundles. Packages vary depending on inclusive calls, the TV channels you want and how long you are willing to commit to.
All BT broadband and fibre customers get various security measures – BT Virus Protect, BT Parental Controls and BT Web Protect – as standard, plus BT Cloud Storage and access to BT Wi-fi hotspots.
The latest addition to the BT array of extras is BT Plus. Customers that sign up to the BT Plus broadband package, which offers average download speed of 67Mbps, can get double data on all their BT Mobile SIMs. In addition, BT Plus customers will be sent a Mini Hub, which, in the event of your BT fibre broadband going down, will automatically take over, connectng your home to its 4G service with free, unlimited data until your fibre service is back up and running.
Equipment and installation
Standard BT Broadband customers get a BT Home Hub 4 while BT Superfast Fibre customers get the BT Smart Hub. BT Broadband customers need to pay both an activation fee and the delivery charge for their hub, while BT Superfast customers just pay the delivery charge.
You might not need an engineer visit if there's already an active phone line and socket at your address. In this case, BT can usually switch the phone line remotely. But you'll need a BT line installed if you don't already have one, or if you're switching over from a cable service. To find out more about what to expect, read our guide on broadband installation.
BT claims the Smart Hub boasts the UK's most powerful wi-fi signal. It has seven antennas positioned to give the Smart Hub an unmatchable wireless so you can get wi-fi in more rooms throughout your house, with fewer blackspots.
The Smart Hub includes the next-generation of wi-fi technology, including the latest 4x4 multi-user MiMo AC chipset. This means multiple devices can connect to wi-fi at the same time and you'll still enjoy a fast connection. Built-in filters block interference, which means a more reliable wi-fi connection.
BT Superfast is limited to certain areas, but this coverage is growing and now stands at about 83% of the UK. Ultrafast isn't widely available though – you'll be lucky if you can get it. However, when Ultrafast Fibre becomes more readily available, BT offers a speed guarantee, which will make it the only provider to do so: if your speed falls below 100Mbps, BT will give you £20 (up to four times a year).
You can get an estimate of the speed you'll get with BT by entering your details on its broadband speed checker. If you're on standard broadband, the speed will depend on the distance from your home to the nearest exchange but it won't matter if you have BT Superfast. BT doesn't operate traffic management policies which means your broadband speed won't slow down during busy hours.
The quality of BT's customer service has declined in recent years. In Ofcom's latest customer satisfaction survey it scored below average for landline and broadband. The latest Ofcom figures show BT had 127 Ofcom complaints per 100,000 customers in 2016, the highest number of the big broadband players.
Ofcom also found BT customers waited an average of 3 minutes 59 seconds to speak to someone at BT, with 13% giving up and hanging up before speaking to anyone.
BT's undoubtedly a big name and a big player in the broadband market. It lacks the flexibility of some smaller providers – there's no monthly contracts available – and it hikes prices the moment you're out of contract. But on the plus side, it's pretty generous with the extras such as BT Sport, various security software packages, cloud storage, and access to Wi-fi hotspots when you're out and about. Basically, once it's got you hooked, it doesn't want to let you go.
Ultrafast promises lightning speeds and the speed guarantee is an industry first. But don't get too excited – it's not readily available yet.
Why choose BT broadband?
BT is the stalwart of the UK telecoms market. But does a big brand name means it’s the best option for you? We’ve checked out what’s on offer.
- Fastest entry-level fibre broadband in the UK alongside Virgin Media
- Free BT Sport for six months with BT Superfast Fibre
- Free access to more than 5 million UK wi-fi hotspots
- Store files, photos and music on BT Cloud
- BT will buy you out of your existing contract
- Cheap BT Mobile SIMs available to BT Broadband and Superfast Fibre customers
Fastest entry-level fibre broadband at 36Mbps
BT’s entry-level unlimited fibre deal – BT Superfast Fibre Essential – offers speeds averaging 36Mbps.
If you go up a notch, BT Superfast Fibre 1 (previously BT Infinity 1) is pretty damn fast at 50Mbps and the good news is you’re likely to get almost exactly what you’re paying for. Ofcom’s Home Broadband Performance report found Superfast Fibre 1 offered speeds with an average of 48Mbps.
BT Superfast Fibre 2 offers speeds averaging 67Mbps, which is in line with other providers’ fibre offerings (except Virgin Media). However, according to Ofcom, Superfast Fibre 2 offers average speeds of 60.5Mps – so not really a noticeable difference from what you get with Superfast Fibre 1.
You get a BT Smart Hub with BT Superfast Fibre
BT reckons the Smart Hub provides the most powerful wi-fi signal in the UK (compared to the hubs you get from other broadband providers). Whether this is 100% accurate or not is up for debate, but what is for sure is that the BT Smart Hub has seven antennas and these antennas are positioned to give the Smart Hub an extensive wireless range. The Smart Hub also includes the latest 4x4 Multi User MiMo AC chipset, meaning multiple devices can connect to wi-fi at the same time and all enjoy a fast connection.
Finally, the BT Smart Hub is thin enough to fit through most letter boxes, so you won’t need to be in when it’s delivered (just watch the dog doesn’t get it).
You get a BT Home Hub 4 with BT broadband
If you opt for BT’s standard broadband, you’ll get the BT Home Hub 4. It's perfectly adequate for the moderate-use household BT's standard broadband packages are aimed at, but it's not as fast or fancy as the BT Smart Hub.
Enjoy free BT Sport for six months with BT Superfast Fibre
BT fibre customers get free BT Sport on BT TV for six months. After that it’s £3.50 a month so remember to cancel unless you want to keep watching BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, BT Sport 3 and BT Sport ESPN, plus HD versions of each. The BT Sport Pack will show all 351 UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League games broadcast live each season, plus the Premier League, FA Cup, European Rugby Champions Cup, Ultimate Fighting Championship, MotoGP, and loads more.
Free access to more than five million UK wi-fi hotspots
Both standard broadband and BT fibre customers get access to more than five million BT wi-fi hotspots for free. To use them, you need to download the BT wi-fi app to your phone, tablet or laptop, enter your username and password, and then search for nearby hotspots whenever you’re out and about.
BT Extras protect your devices and your kids
BT Virus Protect for two devices comes as standard with all BT’s broadband packages except Superfast Fibre 2, which allows you to protect up to 15 devices. BT Web Protect warns you if you're about to visit a harmful website either on your home BT Broadband or at a BT wi-fi hotspot.
Users also get BT Parental Controls which allow parents to turn on age-appropriate searches, set web browsing limits and filter inappropriate websites.
BT Cloud keeps your files safe
BT Broadband and Superfast Fibre (previously Infinity) customers get between 10GB and 1,000GB BT Cloud storage included, depending on which broadband package you choose.
BT Cloud backs up photos, videos, music, documents, your phone's contacts, text messages and call logs. This means you can both free up space on your phone and still access your stuff if something happens to your device.
BT will buy you out of your existing contract
Broadband contracts are usually 12 to 18 months in length and they’re tricky to get out of early without paying a penalty. Some providers – BT being one of them – will offset the cost of leaving your old provider and switching to BT by up to £300.
It sounds great but it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. You still have to pay your exit fees, but BT will knock a little off your monthly bill up to the value of your buyout or the aforementioned £300. Still, it's pretty generous if you’re stuck in a contract you' want're desperate to leave early.
You can add BT TV
BT TV is only available to BT broadband customers – you can’t buy it on its own. Packages range from a basic deal with Freeview channels and little else, to the Max package with more than 140 channels and a Youview+ UHD box.
The key selling point of BT TV is BT Sport. Now a major competitor to Sky Sports, BT Sport is essential for football fans. BT also has its own American drama channel AMC. It broadcasts classic series such as Mad Men, The Shield, Breaking Bad and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as its new shows including The Terror, and Fear the Walking Dead.
Discounts on BT Mobile
BT Mobile gives BT broadband customers a monthly £5 discount off both SIM-only deals and handset plans. BT Mobile piggybacks on the EE network, which is the biggest 4G network in the UK. Some BT Mobile plans include BT Sport, while the BT Family SIM allows you to get the same SIM for other family members at a discount, but only on certain deals.
Faster speeds are coming
BT’s in something of a speed race with Virgin Media. Admittedly it’s coming second but it’s the most serious competition Virgin has got. Superfast 3 and 4 are on their way, providing fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections (which is better than fibre to the cabinet or FTTC).
The next generation of broadband, BT Ultrafast, is in the pipeline too. Ultrafast will deliver download speeds averaging 300Mbps and come with a 100Mbps speed guarantee. However, Ultrafast 1 and 2 are only available in a select number of homes at the moment. You can register your interest and BT will tell you when it's available at your home.
Downsides to choosing BT broadband
- BT is expensive compared to other providers
BT is expensive compared to other providers
No one can argue that you’re going to get anything but a great service from BT. However it should be noted that thanks to the way BT tends to run its new customer deals – tending in favour of big cashback and/or vouchers up front – means you won’t exactly be getting bargain prices.
In fact, BT is one of the most expensive providers out there right now, and usually puts up its prices either once or even twice a year. Thankfully, should it do so you will be given the opportunity to move to a new provider, so there’s a silver lining there. Just remember, if you’re not particularly fussed about the stuff you can only get from BT (see the ‘why choose BT’ list above), there are cheaper deals to be had.
BT broadband – how to get the best deal
BT’s the best-known telecoms company in the UK and, unlike smaller challenger brands, has been around for donkeys’ years. That doesn’t mean it’s stuck in the dark ages though – it offers some of the fastest speeds around. The trouble is, super-speedy connections are not yet widely available. Is BT broadband right for you? Here’s how you decide, step-by-step.
1. Find out if you can get it
Unlike arch rival Virgin Media, BT has most of the country covered to one degree or another, so it’s a pretty safe bet. It uses the Openreach network – Openreach is part of BT but the two operate completely separately these days. Openreach fibre is available to around 96% of UK households, whereas Virgin Media reaches somewhere around 60%.
To find out which services BT can offer you, put your postcode in at the top of this page and we will tell you if you can get it.
2. What speed do you need?
BT has a broadband speed checker on its website which tells you the speeds you can expect to get on its services. BT's standard offering, simply called BT Broadband, offers speeds averaging 10Mbps. It's widely available, covering about 99% of UK homes and businesses.
BT's entry-level fibre offering, Superfast Fibre 1 (previously Infinity), offers speeds averaging 50Mbps, while Superfast Fibre 2 offers speeds averaging 67Mbps. BT Ultrafast, which will offer download speeds averaging 300Mbps, is on its way but not available in many places yet.
Do you need speeds of 300Mbps or so? You probably don’t if you just do day-to-day activities such as emailing, browsing the internet and streaming movies. BT Superfast Fibre 1 is easily enough for most households.
3. To bundle or not to bundle?
BT offers various bundle options: broadband and phone, broadband and TV, or broadband, phone and TV. You’ll need a phone line whatever you do – you can’t get BT broadband without one.
Packages vary depending on inclusive calls, the TV channels you want, and the TV set-top box (either a YouView box that pauses and rewinds live TV, or a YouView+ box that also records). Most bundles have an 18-month contract. Make sure you know when your deal is coming to an end as BT will hike the price (our advice is to call ahead of your contract ending, threaten to leave and see if you get offered a better deal).
4. Can you, and should you, switch to BT Mobile?
BT also offers BT Mobile. BT broadband customers get £5 off monthly tariffs and the option to get discounts on additional SIMs via Family SIM. Some deals come with free BT Sport (accessible by the BT Sport smartphone app only).