BT vs Sky: Which one should I choose?
By Emma Woollacott | Thursday, May 25th 2023
BT and Sky are two of the biggest household names in the UK broadband and TV market. BT’s background as the UK’s landline provider and Sky’s purely satellite TV origins are now in the distant past as both compete fiercely with packages of ultrafast broadband and topnotch TV.
Whether you’re looking for a modest broadband and TV package, ultrafast broadband only, or the full monty with Sky Sports and Sky Cinema, both BT and Sky can accommodate your needs.
So how do you choose? We’ve taken a look at everything the two providers offer, from TV channels to technology, to help you decide which one is right for you.
BT TV vs Sky TV
Who's got the most channels?
Only a few years ago, Sky would have easily been the winner when it comes to channel choice, but since BT has introduced NOW TV bundles as part of its TV offerings, the difference is less clear cut.
Sky TV Ultimate is the current name for Sky’s core TV package and includes all the regular terrestrial channels, such as BBC, ITV and Channel 4, along with the 17 premium Sky channels (collectively known as Sky Entertainment), including Sky Atlantic, Sky Max, Sky Showcase, Sky Crime, Sky Nature and Sky Documentaries. It also comes with over 40 other channels including the National Geographic, Discovery and Eurosport channels.
On top of all that, customers also get a wide range of music, news, shopping and international channels at no extra cost. Altogether there are over 300 channels.
All Sky TV Ultimate customers also receive a free basic subscription to Netflix (which you can choose to upgrade) and unlimited access to 500 Sky Box Sets, both of which were previously only offered as a chargeable add-on.
On top of this fairly impressive “base pack” Sky TV customers can choose to bolt on various extra channel packs – namely, Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, BT Sport and Sky Kids – for an extra monthly fee.
Sky Sports has ten channels, covering football, cricket, golf and Formula 1 racing, as well as a dedicated channel for the Premier League. Sky Sports Action and Arena channels bring you international Rugby Union, Rugby League, boxing, darts, NFL, tennis and more; and the Main Event channel is dedicated to the biggest live events from across the company's other sports channels.
Sky Cinema comes with eleven channels and offers something for every taste, from sci-fi and horror to family favourites and big budget Hollywood blockbusters.
To enhance your viewing, you can also choose to pay for Sky Ultra HD, which gives you access to Ultra HD content and Dolby Atmos sound where available, and you can also pay extra to not be subjected to the adverts. Well worth it in our opinion.
BT has recently beefed up its TV offerings with various options that can be combined with its broadband packages, and they are offering serious competition to Sky.
BT's Entertainment package gives you the standard range of Freeview channels, plus an extra 17 channels included in the NOW Entertainment Membership (included as part of the package at no extra cost). The most popular Sky channels are all there, including Sky Atlantic, Sky Showcase and Sky Comedy, as well as MTV, Comedy Central, Gold and Alibi. BT TV customers also get access to Discovery and, exclusively, AMC, home of Fear The Walking Dead.Customers wanting Sky Cinema are also well catered for: the BT Big Entertainment bundle comes with NOW Entertainment and all 11 NOW Cinema channels.
BT caters very well for sports lovers, by offering BT Sport, which comes with all four BT Sports channels, Freeview channels and AMC, and also Big Sport, which comes with Sky Sports as well, providing the ultimate package for sport lovers. Fans can enjoy coverage of the Premier League as well as plenty of other major sporting events, from the Ashes to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Finally, for those who want everything, there is the VIP bundle, which has Big Sport, Big Entertainment and Full HD all wrapped up into the ultimate TV package.
Our verdict: Sky
With BT now offering the best of Sky channels in the form of NOW TV Memberships, this is a much closer call than it has been in the past. For a comparable package with a comparable broadband speed, Sky currently works out cheaper than BT, and still offers a wider range of channels than BT, so Sky wins.
BT broadband vs Sky broadband
Who's got the top speed?
BT offers three fibre broadband speeds, starting with its Fibre Essential, which comes with an average speed of 36Mbps. Its Fibre 1 offers an average speed of 50Mbps, and Fibre 2 offers an average of 67Mbps. In addition, BT now offers ultrafast speeds to those in areas that have been upgraded to full fibre by Openreach. Eligible customers can choose from three speeds: 100Mbps, 500Mbps and 900Mbps. For households that are still unable to get fibre, BT will supply its basic broadband service, which averages 11Mbps.
In comparison, Sky advertises just two fibre speeds averaging 36Mbps and 59Mbps, which it refers to simply as Superfast 35 and Broadband Superfast respectively. Sky also offers full fibre connections in areas where OPenreach has rolled out the upgraded network, with a choice of 145Mbps, 500Mbps or 900Mbps. Like BT, Sky reserves its 11Mbps standard broadband service for those who cannot get any kind of fibre connection.
Our verdict: BT
BT wins purely due to the fact that it offers a third regular fibre speed, whereas Sky only offers two. For those in a full fibre area, both BT and Sky offer the same ultrafast connections.
BT calls vs Sky Talk
Who offers the best inclusive phone packages?
BT now offers all its packages either with a landline or without. If you choose not to have a landline you will not be able to make any calls at all. If you do choose to have a landline you have two options: you can pay for the calls you make or you can bolt on a calls package for an extra monthly fee.
Customers wanting to use their landline for calls can choose to add 700 minutes of calls to UK landlines and mobiles or Unlimited calls to landlines and mobiles. You can also choose to add on international calls, and features such as Caller Display and Call Waiting. BT Call Protect comes free with any landline package and enables you to block unwanted calls.
BT customers signing up for full fibre broadband that still want a functioning landline can sign up for BT Digital Voice at no extra cost. Call packages are the same as for a fibre service with a traditional landline; pay-as-you-go as standard, with the option to include either 700 or Unlimited minutes per month for an extra fee.
If you buy Sky broadband or fibre, you’ll get Sky pay-as-you-talk as standard with your landline, and you can choose to bolt on anytime calls or evenings and weekends calls. International calls are another available option. Caller display and automatic withhold are thrown in free, as is Sky 1571.
Customers signing up to Sky ultrafast will not have a landline as standard, since ultrafast broadband uses a full fibre connection without need of a copper phone line. However, you can choose to have Internet Calls as part of your package, with the same options for call packages as the fibre service.
Our verdict: Sky
Although the options available from BT and Sky are really pretty similar, Sky wins here with its anytime calls package costing considerably less than that of BT – around a fiver a month in fact.
Who's got the best router?
BT claims its Smart Hub provides the most powerful home wi-fi in the UK, and that it has the best coverage in different rooms around the house. It has seven antennas and dual wi-fi bands to minimise the risk of a poor or dropped connection. It automatically goes into power save mode when not in use, and constantly monitors your internet connection: if it spots a problem, it will quietly restart and make a fresh connection.
The Sky Broadband Hub is Sky's fastest ever router, and the company says it's the most reliable too. Like the BT router, it has dual-band technology, and the company's Smart Signal Technology optimises your wi-fi to get the best connection possible. It has four Ethernet ports, eight antennas, and, like the BT Smart Hub, drops into low power mode automatically when not in use.
Our verdict: Draw
There's very little to choose between these two routers, with both of them offering pretty much the best of what is available across the broadband market in terms of free routers. Both have the capability to support ultrafast speeds and numerous devices at once.
BT vs Sky
Who's got the best set-top box?
BT keeps things simple by offering a single TV box in the form of the BT TV Box Pro with all its TV packages. It comes with the option to pause, rewind and record TV shows, and storage space for up to 600 hours of TV. There is no need for an aerial - you can watch all your BT TV content via your BT internet connection.
The BT TV Box Pro provides access to free apps such as BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub, as well as subscription services Britbox and Netflix. Customers that have signed up to BT Sport Ultimate will appreciate the Dolby Atmos and 4KR capability. BT TV customers that want to watch their content in a second room can choose to pay for one additional extra box, and for those that want to watch TV away from home, there is the handy BT TV app.
Sky, meanwhile, makes things more complicated by offering three ways to consume its TV services.
The most traditional of these is via the Sky Q box that lets you store up to 500 hours of TV and record three shows while watching a fourth. You can rewind and pause live TV and watch on other devices at once around the house with Sky Q Multiscreen. With Sky Q Mini boxes and the Sky Q app, you can download recordings to your tablet or mobile to watch programmes any time you like, anywhere.
More recently, Sky launched its Sky Glass concept. This offers all Sky services via a special TV (known as Sky Glass) without the need for a separate box and without the need for a satellite dish – all your content is delivered through your broadband connection. Customers can choose the size and colour of TV they want and will pay a monthly fee accordingly. Sky Glass comes with 4K and Dolby Atmos and has six powerful built-in speakers. Like Sky Q, it also has voice control. Unlike Sky Q however, you cannot record any TV on it.
Sky has also now introduced Sky Stream. This simple system combines Freeview TV with Sky Entertainment packages (the same as those offered by NOW TV Entertainment) and a Netflix basic subscription, all bundled with a Sky broadband deal of your choice. There is no ability to record but you can pause and rewind. Customers can choose to add Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and BT Sport if they wish. Best of all, not only is there no requirement for a dish, but you can cancel the service at any time with 31 days’ notice – there is no long contract.
Our verdict: Sky
The choice and flexibility of technology offered by Sky clearly beats that of BT. Plus, the option of a no-contract TV service with Sky Stream makes Sky the undoubted winner here.
BT Mobile vs Sky Mobile
Who's got the best SIM deals?
As a result of joining forces with EE, BT no longer offers its own mobile plans and SIM-only deals. All the mobile deals shown on its site direct you straight to EE, where you can complete your purchase. Existing BT broadband customers can enjoy discounts on plans however, and 10 per cent off new handset deals with EE.
IN contract, Sky Mobile very much functions as a separate entity, with no discounts for existing Sky TV and broadband customers. Running on the O2 network, it makes much of its flexibility. All SIM-only plans are for 12-months, but customers can change their plan up or down every month if they wish. Any unused data will roll over to the next month for up to three years, which is useful as the highest data allowance Sky offers is 70GB.
Customers can also choose to swap their excess data for rewards, like accessories, or discounts off a new phone, or they can gift it to someone else by adding an extra SIM to their account.
Sky also offers a wide range of handset deals, along with pay monthly offers on laptops, tablets and smart watches. Contracts are flexible, with the option to pay off your plan early or switch to a new device mid contract.
Our verdict: Sky
Sky wins here primarily by default since BT no longer offers its own mobile plans. But in spite of that, Sky does offer a very flexible and well-priced offering when it comes to both SIM-only and handset plans.
One key issue when choosing between Sky and BT will be the standards of customer service and satisfaction. According to Ofcom's latest report, BT had 49 complaints about its broadband services per 100,000 customers, while Sky, meanwhile, had only 21.
When it comes to overall satisfaction with services, BT comes out top with 88 per cent of customers satisfied against 84 per cent of Sky customers. Only 16 per cent of Sky customers had a reason to complain, against 18 per cent of BT customers, with the sector average of 20 per cent. However, fractionally more BT customers were happy with the way their complaint was dealt with, at 55 per cent against 54 per cent of Sky customers. Both are better than the sector average of 50 per cent, however.
Our verdict: BT or Sky?
The winner has to be Sky. This is largely down to its superior choice of TV services, since both providers offer the full range of broadband speeds. Sky’s contract lengths are shorter both for broadband and TV deals, and it offers greater flexibility than BT overall.
However, in many areas, there's little to choose between one service and the other. BT does now include NOW TV Entertainment as part of its TV packages meaning you can get Sky Atlantic on BT, but if you want a superior array of tech, then Sky is your best choice.
BT offers discounts to customers looking for a mobile service as well as TV and broadband, which SKy does not, but Sky’s mobile service is more affordable and flexible than those offered by EE (on behalf of BT).
Both providers offer an excellent array of broadband and TV services and are fairly well matched on customer service too, so your ultimate decision is likely to come down to cost.