BT (formerly British Telecom) is the UK’s biggest broadband provider. It has the largest network, covering more than 95% of homes. The wider BT Group is recognised as a global leader in telecommunications and operates in many countries. In the UK, BT Broadband falls under the BT Consumer division, along with its ‘sister’ providers Plusnet and EE.
BT Broadband can provide all types of broadband, including ADSL, Fibre to the Cabinet (FFTC), Gfast (FTTC followed by an augmented copper wire connection from the cabinet to the premises) and full Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). However, reports suggest that BT may now be restricting sales of its ADSL services, promoting these only in areas where there is no alternative. This is understandable, given the UK government’s commitment to upgrading broadband to gigabit capability, which relies largely on fibre broadband. It is likely that many providers will retire ADSL in due course.
All of BT’s current contracts are for 24 months, so anyone unwilling to commit for that long should look elsewhere for short-contract or non-contract broadband. All BT broadband packages offer unlimited data.
The BT TV and broadband reviews that follow contain information correct at the time of writing (October 2020).
BT seems to be limiting sales of its ADSL broadband package, and it only appears as an option on the BT Broadband website in some areas (possibly those where fibre is not yet available). This package gives an average speed of 10Mb. That’s fine for light internet use, but it probably won’t cope with 4K video streaming or online gaming. It’s best for casual browsing, e-mail use and streaming some HD content.
Notably, the price currently shown online for this basic broadband package is identical to that given for BT’s Fibre Essential package for new users (existing users can get personalised update offers by logging into the BT website). Fibre Essential delivers an average speed of 36Mb, so it is hard to see why anyone would choose the ADSL option unless they had to.
BT’s fibre broadband comes in FTTC, FTTP and Gfast (also called ‘fibre to the node’) variants. Availability is dependent on location – some areas have problems getting a decent ASDL service, let alone fibre. With infrastructure being upgraded all the time, fibre is rapidly becoming the norm, giving consumers faster speeds and more stable connections.
BT is the parent company of Openreach, which operates the biggest fibre network in the UK and is currently upgrading connections nationwide to meet the government’s ‘gigabit capable’ roll-out. It currently offers five fibre options on its website, and gives average download/upload speeds for each:
Fibre Essential (36Mbps/9Mbps) – This is BT’s cheapest fibre option. Its average download speed of 36Mbps makes it fine for many households. It’s enough for HD streaming, video calling and even online gaming as long as there aren’t too many people playing at once.
Fibre 1 (50Mbps/9Mbps) – This is similar to Fibre Essential but delivers higher download speeds.
Fibre 2 (67 Mbps/18 Mbps) – With higher download and upload speeds than Fibre 1, this service can handle heavy use.
Fibre 100 (145Mbps/28Mbps) – This is the quickest of BT’s superfast broadband services, available to those who live in areas with Gfast or FTTP. An average speed of 145 Mbps can stream multiple HD films at once, and is more than enough for serious online gamers. Post-Covid, it’s also ideal for households where several people are working from home.
Fibre 250 (300Mbps/47Mbps) – Fibre 250 is BT’s ultrafast offering, available to households with FTTP. If you live very close to a Gfast cabinet, you might just be able to get Fibre 250 that way.
All these packages offer unlimited data and come with BT’s Stay Fast guarantee of a £20 refund if you don’t get the promised speeds. All BT Broadband customers get free BT Wi-Fi, meaning they can connect at five million BT hotspots in the UK (and BT Fon hotspots around the world), potentially saving a fortune in data charges.
BT Broadband also gives its customers free BT cloud storage, ranging from 10GB to 1,000 GB of space. That could prove particularly useful for those now working at home, and may save the cost of purchasing space elsewhere (providers like Google and Microsoft currently charge around £10 per month for 1,000 GB). BT is the only internet service provider (ISP) to offer cloud storage like this.
BT is not the cheapest option, but neither is it the most expensive. However, ADSL/Gfast customers (i.e. anybody without full FTTP) will need a BT landline for fixed broadband, and BT line rental charges are quite high. Yet BT is still the country’s biggest ISP in terms of customers. The reliability and stability of its connections, allied to unparalleled access to ultrafast fibre and various added extras, may seem more valuable than the prospect of saving money with another provider.
BT’s broadband packages all include built-in security. This includes parental controls, spam filters, anti-spyware and antivirus protection and a pop-up blocker. Customers can protect either two or up to fifteen of their devices (depending on their contract), or pay for extra cover.
New BT customers (and those upgrading) will receive one of the company’s Hub routers. This range includes the highly-rated BT Smart Hub and BT Smart Hub 2. These have multi-aerial and signal-blocking technologies that make the user’s connection more stable and reliable.
BT sells an extensive range of TV services either as an add-on or as part of a package with broadband. These include in-house offerings like BT Sport, along with many additional channels from Sky and NOW TV.
Advertised broadband speeds are averages, based on the speed available to half of all customers during peak times (8pm–10pm). However, the actual speed each customer gets will vary according to location, cabling in and around the premises and the time of day. ADSL speeds tend to very more than fibre speeds and experience more disconnections, regardless of provider.
Some have claimed that BT’s ADSL service is slow, and an Ofcom study of data from 2018 bears this out. However, more recent Ofcom data suggests BT’s speeds hold up pretty well against the competition at the faster end of the spectrum. So, while there may be room for improvement in ADSL, or scope for prices to be lowered to reflect the actual speeds, BT’s fibre packages consistently deliver fast speeds and reliable connections.
Many BT broadband reviews on TrustPilot refer to poor customer service. And while a report from Ofcom suggests BT customer service outcomes have improved lately, the company’s reputation in this area could still use some work. However, customers also note that fibre connections are fast and reliable, and there is high praise for the company’s routers. In general, customers seem happy with the products but less impressed with its customer service.
|Unlimited usage across all packages – no traffic management or data caps||Slow ADSL speeds|
|FTTP available||ADSL is expensive|
|Extra features including cloud storage and security features||Reputation for poor customer service|
|Extensive and global public Wi-Fi hotspot access||Lengthy contracts|
|Customisable packages||Expensive line rental|
|Consistent fibre speeds||Potential for major price hikes when contract ends|
|High-tech smart routers|
BT Broadband offers a comprehensive range of broadband options, and it’s widely available. While ADSL speeds may be questionable, BT offers consistently fast and reliable fibre broadband services along with lots of added extras that customers will find genuinely useful. The company is one of very few to offer stable FTTP services, and while FTTP is not widely available yet, it is being rolled out nationwide and rapidly becoming more accessible.
BT’s provision of truly unlimited data is another advantage. When it comes to TV, BT’s own offerings are greatly enhanced by the addition of Sky/NOW TV options. In terms of prices, BT can generally be beaten, but any financial saving has to be weighed against the speed and reliability of performance, and the various extras that BT provides. In short, BT Broadband offers a range of high-performance, reliable broadband and TV packages that will meet the needs of most households.
Last updated: 5 November 2020