BT vs Sky
By Emma Woollacott | Tuesday, May 25th 2021
BT and Sky are two of the biggest UK players in the UK broadband markets. However, the focus of their services is rather different. BT focuses on its high broadband speeds and wide geographical coverage; Sky, meanwhile, is best-known for its TV service, although BT is competing on that front too.
Both offer a range of bundles catering for everybody from the occasional internet user up to the most committed gamer; from the ordinary TV viewer to the obsessive sports fan.
So how do you decide which is best for you? Making a decision between the two means picking your priorities and weighing up the merits of their various services – we give you the low-down on how they stack up.
BT TV vs Sky TV
Who's got the most channels?
Well, there's no surprise here: Sky – as you'd expect from one of the world's biggest media companies – wins the channel battle hands down. The company recently changed the way it offers its TV packages, scrapping things like the Family, Box Sets and Variety bundles.
Now, instead, we have the Sky Signature Pack as the basic TV package, with more than 300 channels of entertainment, comedy, Sky exclusives and music. These include Sky Atlantic – vital for Game of Thrones fans – along with Sky One, Sky Living, MTV, Discovery, National Geographic, Sky News, Comedy Central and many more. More than 40 of these channels feature HD.
Sky Signature also now comes with a free subscription to Netflix and unlimited access to 500 Sky Box Sets, which was previously only offered as a chargeable add-on.
Meanwhile, Sky Sports now 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 a Main Event channel is dedicated to the biggest live events from across the company's other sports channels.
And there are various other packages you can add on for as little as a fiver a month, including BT Sport, Disney+, Sky Kids and Sky Cinema as well as Ultra HD.
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 Classic Entertainment package gives you the standard range of Freeview channels, plus an extra 17 channels including Gold, Comedy Central, Eurosport and AMC. With the Entertainment package, you get Freeview, AMC, NOW TV Entertainment (with Sky Atlantic) and over 300 NOW TV Box Sets. Big Entertainment adds to this with NOW Cinema added to the bundle.
Sports fans can plump for Sport, which comes with all four BT Sports channels, Freeview and AMC, and Big Sport goes one further 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’s recent revamping of its TV packages, this is a much closer call than it has been in the past. BT now offers NOW TV Entertainment and Box Sets as part of its Entertainment package for half the price of Sky’s Signature package, although Sky does include Netflix too. However, all BT’s TV packages have to be taken with BT fibre, with the exception of Classic Entertainment, so on the basis of flexibility, Sky wins.
BT broadband vs Sky broadband
Who's got the top speed?
BT offers a range of four broadband speeds, starting with its basic Broadband package with speeds averaging 10Mbps. Next up is its Fibre Essential, which comes with an average speed of 36Mbps. Its Fibre 1 (previously BT Infinity 1) offers an average speed of 50Mbps, and Fibre 2 (previously Infinity 2) offers an average of 67Mbps.
Sky's new average speeds are now 11Mbps for its standard broadband service and 59Mbps for its fibre service.The recent introduction of new rules by the Advertising Standards Authority means that broadband providers must now advertise their average actual speeds, accessible by at least 50% of their customers. This is good news for the consumer as it means the speeds you now see advertised are likely to be close to the speeds you will get.
Our verdict: BT
BT's average speeds for Fibre 2 are better than those of Sky, although when it comes to it, a few megabits per second either way is unlikely to make much difference to your everyday experience.
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.
If you buy Sky Broadband or Fibre, you’ll get Sky Pay-as-you-Talk as standard. Most people, though, will go for one of the company's three phone packages. Sky Talk Evenings and Weekends Extra includes line rental and allows free calls to UK landlines and mobiles, including 0845 and 0870 numbers, in the evenings and at weekends. Caller display and automatic withhold are thrown in free, with Sky 1571 voicemail costing an extra couple of quid a month.
Pay a few quid more, and Sky Talk Anytime Extra allows these free calls any time; and a little extra will get you international calls to 50 destinations thrown in.
Our verdict: BT
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.
Who's got the best router?
BT claims its Smart Hub gives the most powerful 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, and you can connect 64 devices at the same time. This router, too, drops into low power mode automatically when not in use. It has eight antennas and VOIP handset socket so you can use it to make phone calls over the internet should you wish.
Our verdict: BT
There's not a lot in it overall, but BT probably wins, thanks to its powerful and reliable signal. It was rated a Best Buy by consumer watchdog Which?, and it's easy enough to see why.
BT vs Sky
Who's got the best set-top box?
BT has two set-top boxes, and which one you get depends on the TV package you sign up for. All TV packages apart from VIP come with the latest YouView box, the G4. This comes with the seven-day catch up facility, the option to pause, rewind and record TV shows, and space to save up to 300 hours of TV. It also provides access to free apps such as BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub, as well as NOW TV and Netflix.
Customers that choose the VIP package will receive the Ultra HD YouView box. This offers 600 hours of storage and enables customers to watch BT Sport Ultimate in UHD (subject to ownership of a 4K television and a sufficiently fast broadband connection of at least 44Mbps).
Sky, meanwhile, offers the Sky Q box as standard with all its TV packages, allowing you to store up to 500 hours of TV and record three shows while watching a fourth. For rather more money, you can upgrade to a 2TB version that lets you record six shows while watching a seventh and store 1,000 hours of TV, and which also includes the ability to watch in 4K HD. With Sky Q Multiscreen and the Sky Q app, you can download recordings to your tablet or mobile to watch programmes any time you like, anywhere; BT's TV app does basically the same thing.
Both BT and Sky offer the option of additional set top boxes for watching TV in another room. Sky offers up to four Sky Q mini boxes whereas BT only offers one Extra Box.
Our verdict: Sky
Sky Q and its optional army of Sky Q minis beat BT’s YouView box hands down. Sky Q comes with voice control and its Sky Q minis work as wifi hotspots as well as TV boxes. BT only offers a single extra box and its main box only has capacity to record 300 hours of TV against Sky Q’s 500 hours.
BT Mobile vs Sky Mobile
Who's got the best SIM deals?
BT uses the EE network to provide its 4G and 5G (where available) service. It offers a good range of plans, and if you already have BT broadband, you'll get a fiver a month off your bill. Customers have a choice of 12-month SIM deals or 24-month SIM deals and can switch their plan up or down each month according to their needs. The bigger data plans also come with free access to the BT Sport app. BT does not yet offer unlimited data; the biggest data allowance at the time of writing is 100GB.
BT Mobile's Family SIM scheme allows you to add up to five SIMs, each with its own data. The first SIM has a 12-month contract, but the rest have flexible 30-day terms. You'll get a single bill each month, and there's even a 30-day money-back guarantee if you're not happy with the service.
Sky Mobile, meanwhile, makes much of its flexibility. Customers can roll all their unused data over for up to three years and keep it in their Sky Mobile Piggybank. Customers can 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. SIM-only deals come on 12-month contracts as standard and you can change your plan every month if you want to. All customers can talk and text for free.
Our verdict: Sky
Sky definitely has the edge here with its highly flexible plans, shorter contracts and data Piggybank scheme. However BT’s Family SIM remains a good option for larger households and the BT Sport app will be a popular freebie for some.
Other influential factors
If you live in a listed building or a conservation area, then you may have little choice in terms of which provider to go for: Sky TV requires a satellite dish (for the time being at least) and these are often seen by councils as an unacceptable eyesore.
Assuming you don't have this problem, though, there are other factors to consider - in particular, the two companies' levels of customer satisfaction. According to Ofcom's latest report, BT had 50 complaints about its broadband services per 100,000 customers, while Sky, meanwhile, was the least complained about, with only 21.
When it comes to overall satisfaction with services, BT and Sky are both neck and neck, with 86 per cent of customers satisfied. Only 10 per cent of BT customers had a reason to complain, against 12 per cent of Sky customers, on a par with the sector average of 12 per cent. However, more Sky customers were happy with the way their complaint was dealt with, at 62 per cent against 57 per cent of BT customers. Both are better than the sector average of 53 per cent, however.
Our verdict: BT or Sky?
The winner has to be Sky. This is down to its superior TV service, and simple choice of two broadband speeds. It also has the edge over BT when it comes to customer service. Its contract lengths are shorter both for broadband and for its SIM deals, and it offers greater flexibility 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 Sky includes Netflix as standard with its Signature TV package.
Both providers offer a premium service so if you’re after a package with all the trimmings, either Sky or BT will tick all the boxes.