BT Broadband review: Big internet packages at big prices
Everyone’s heard of BT Broadband. It’s the UK’s biggest ISP, and it also happens to be the parent company of Openreach, which owns and operates the subterranean fibre network over which most ISPs deliver their fastest internet services.
However, it’s also the most expensive of the UK’s major internet providers. So, is going with BT a worthwhile investment, or a waste of money?
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BT Broadband review: What’s on offer?
BT offers a range of five internet packages, at speeds ranging from 10Mbits/sec to 67Mbits/sec. And the connection itself is just the start of the deal: you also get a router thrown in, free antivirus software, 200GB of included storage on the BT Cloud platform, access to over five million Wi-Fi hotspots across the country – and free weekend calls to UK landlines and mobiles. Phew.
BT’s internet packages can be combined with its TV and mobile phone packages too, as well as various landline plans. So if you want, you can get a huge bundle of communications and entertainment services all in the one contract.
Keep an eye on the BT website and you might also spot one of the company’s regular time-limited promotions, such as discounted rates, credit on a reward card or a free subscription to Amazon Prime for new customers.
Compare the best BT deals in your area
BT Broadband review: Standard Broadband
If you just want a basic internet connection, the entry-level Standard Broadband package is your best bet with BT. It’s an ADSL service with a claimed average speed of 10Mbits/sec: for an estimate of what speeds you can actually expect in your area, visit the main BT Broadband homepage.
For many people, this service will be perfectly ample. It includes a Home Hub 4 router, it’s fast enough to browse the web, and it’s unmetered so you can happily stream as many HD videos as you fancy from Netflix and the like. The only thing you can’t do is watch 4K shows: you’ll need a fibre connection for that.
The catch is that you have to sign up for an 18-month contract at £25 a month, with an upfront cost of £30 – which makes it quite a bit more expensive than any other major provider’s equivalent ADSL service. To make things worse, the price goes up to £33 after your 18 months is up. However, those prices do include all the extras mentioned above, from cloud storage to free weekend calls.
BT Broadband (2019) review: BT Superfast Fibre
If ADSL isn’t fast enough for you, BT also offers fibre connections at a choice of three speeds. The entry-level service is called Superfast Fibre Essential, and it runs at an average of 36Mbits/sec; then there’s Superfast Fibre, at 50Mbits/sec, and the top-shelf Superfast Fibre 2 service at 67Mbits/sec.
All of these packages follow the same pricing philosophy as the ADSL service. That is to say, they come with all the bundled extras, including a rather good Smart Hub router – and the cost reflects that. Here’s how all of BT’s broadband offerings stack up:
BT Standard Broadband
BT Superfast Fibre Essential
BT Superfast Fibre
BT Superfast Fibre 2
BT Superfast Fibre Plus
Price per month, including line rental
£25 (for 18mths, then £33)
£30 (for 18mths, then £38)
£36 (for 18mths, then £44)
£46 (for 18mths, then £54)
£55 (for 18mths, then £59)
At the far right of that table you’ll notice one last option: costing a stiff £55 a month, BT’s Superfast Fibre Plus package gives you the same internet connection as the £46 service, but goes even heavier on the extras. As well as the Smart Hub router, you get a Wi-Fi Extender to help spread the signal around your home, plus 1,000GB of BT Cloud storage – and all BT mobile phones on your account get their monthly data allowance doubled.
That last benefit could actually save you a decent amount of money, depending on how your family members use their phones. Overall though it’s a very pricey proposition: most people will be better off buying a cheaper fibre service from someone else and paying separately for the accoutrements.
BT Broadband review: How fast is it?
As we’ve mentioned, BT is a big company, and one that’s uniquely close to the fibre infrastructure – so you’d hope it would provide a decent service.
And for the most part, it does. Ofcom’s latest UK Home Broadband performance report, conducted in November 2017, found that average speeds on BT’s ADSL service over the course of 24 hours ranged from 10.5Mbits/sec to 12.4Mbits/sec – not too shabby for what’s advertised as 10Mbits/sec package. Even the lowest observed speed was a still creditable 9.1Mbits/sec: very few ISPs can match that sort of reliability, though Plusnet managed to best BT with a minimum download speed of 9.8Mbits/sec.
BT’s top-speed fibre service did well too. It didn’t quite hit 67Mbits/sec during Ofcom’s tests, but nor did any other ISP: average speeds ranged between 60.1Mbits/sec to 62.6Mbits/sec, which is again one of the best performances on the market. EE and Sky were slightly faster, but only by a few megabits; you won’t notice any difference in everyday use.
There was just one black mark on BT’s report card. Ofcom didn’t test BT’s 36Mbits/sec service, but it did compare the 50Mbits/sec package with Virgin’s similar offering, and here the latter did a lot better. BT’s best daily average download speed was 45.6Mbits/sec, while Virgin’s line was more than 17% faster with an average of 53.6Mbits/sec.
BT Broadband review: Customer satisfaction
No ISP has a perfect record when it comes to customer satisfaction, but Ofcom’s most recent report (released in May 2018) found that a creditable 79% of BT customers said they were happy with the service. For comparison, the market leader was Plusnet with a satisfaction rate of 86%; Sky and Virgin landed in the middle, on 83% apiece.
At the same time, however, BT also attracted the industry’s highest rate of customer complaints. In 2017, Ofcom recorded 115 complaints per 100,000 BT subscribers, while Sky and Virgin attracted just 29 and 54 respectively.
BT Broadband review: Verdict
BT Broadband is certainly a distinctive offering. Its packages cost more than similar internet services from other ISPs, but the service isn’t bad at all, and you get all sorts of bonus add-ons.
The thing is, not everyone will really value all those add-ons – and there’s no way to deconstruct the bundles and only pay for what you actually need. Without a doubt, some people will find that BT’s offerings deliver just what they’ve been looking for in a convenient package, and if that’s you then by all means dive in. For most of us though, BT Broadband is an overegged, uneconomical choice.