BT Broadband review: Solid but pricey

BT is the parent company of Openreach, which maintains the UK’s largest fibre-optic internet backbone. Numerous ISPs use the Openreach network, including Sky, TalkTalk and Plusnet – but from a performance perspective, BT’s uniquely close relationship with the infrastructure provider should be a huge advantage.

That said, you wouldn’t know it from the results of this year’s Expert Reviews Best Broadband Awards survey. BT actually came last of our seven major providers overall, with more than a third of customers surveyed saying they would not recommend the service to a friend.

BT also did poorly for speed, customer service and value for money. Only 41% of BT’s customers were satisfied on this score. This doesn’t surprise us, as BT’s broadband services tend to come with a price premium, but is there anything to justify it?

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BT Broadband review: Extras, rewards and packages

BT offers a decent selection of broadband packages and it frequently offers promotional discounts, especially if you’re willing to sign up for TV, landline and mobile phone services as well. It’s worth considering whether you’re interested in that before you delve into broadband-only packages, although you’ll also get the option to sign up to these when you subscribe.

There are often time-limited promotions, too, such as temporarily discounted rates, credit on a reward card or a free subscription to Amazon Prime. BT is even throwing in a Google Stadia Stadia Premiere Edition package with its Superfast and Ultrafast fibre options.

Beyond this, you can expect one of BT’s Smart Hub routers, BT Virus Protect anti-virus protection for up to 15 devices, and the option of Complete Wi-Fi, where BT provides one or more Wi-Fi Disc mesh Wi-Fi units to guarantee speeds of 30Mbits/sec (or your guaranteed broadband speed, if lower) in every room of your house. This costs an extra £10 on top of your chosen plan.

BT’s broadband packages are now offered on lengthy 18-month contracts but, be warned: once that period finishes, the cost usually goes up. If you don’t want to get stung, you’ll need to renew for another 24 months or jump ship to a different provider.

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BT Broadband review: Coverage

Over 16 million homes in the UK have access to the Openreach fibre network; if you’re not in a connected area you can still use BT’s ADSL services. You can check which services you can receive using the postcode checker on the BT website.

^ Estimated speeds in Wimbledon

BT Broadband review: Standard Broadband

If you are offered BT’s Unlimited ADSL broadband package, it will set you back £27/mth with an upfront cost of £30. This includes unlimited monthly usage and a BT Home Hub 4 router.

The package is advertised with an average speed of 10Mbits/sec for downloads and that will do you fine for most purposes. It’s even all right for HD streaming but note that it’s nowhere near fast enough to stream 4K video.

That price also includes two licences for BT’s Virus Protect software and 200GB of cloud storage. Even so, £27/mth is steep for a basic ADSL connection and it goes up to £35 after your 24 months is up. To put that in perspective, Sky’s equivalent service is just £20/mth.

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BT Broadband review: BT Superfast Fibre

BT now offers five fibre-optic packages, with slightly confusing names. The cheapest is Superfast Fibre Essential, which promises average download speeds of 36Mbits/sec. It costs £28/mth on a 24-month contract, with a one-off connection fee of £20, and the price goes up to £36/mth once the contract has finished. Frankly, that’s expensive for what you get. At the time of writing, Plusnet’s equivalent package is just £23/mth.

Next up, there’s the Superfast Fibre package, which offers an average speed of 50Mbits/sec for £32/mth (rising to £40 after 18 months) plus a £10 setup fee. Again, it’s hardly competitive. For example, Sky is now offering a 59Mbits/sec package for £29/mth, while Plusnet’s 66Mbits/sec package costs even less at £27/mth. To match that speed, you need to go for BT’s Superfast Fibre 2 package goes up to 67Mbits/sec, which comes in at a whacking £39.99/mth, rising to £47.99 at the end of your contract – and with a £10 setup fee.

Beyond this, BT offers a choice of two Ultrafast fibre packages, although only in areas that support OpenReach’s G.Fast technology. Ultrafast Fibre 100 gives you 145Mbits/sec average speeds for £39.99/mth, rising to £47.99/mth at the end of the 24 month contract. Ultrafast Fibre 250 takes that further to 300Mbits/sec for £49.99/mth, rising to £52.99. Both also involve a £9.99 setup fee.

Thanks to its links to OpenReach, BT is one of the few providers selling ‘full fibre’ FTTP services, where the fibre connection doesn’t stop at the streetside cabinet but makes it all the way to your home or business. Current speeds are 145Mbits/sec for £34.99/mth or 300Mbits/sec for £44.99/mth, although they could theoretically reach up to 1Gbits/sec. These services are only available in a few specific areas right now, though, and the pricing may differ from area to area.

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Best BT Broadband deals: BT broadband prices and packages in 2020

Standard Broadband Superfast Fibre Essential Superfast Fibre Superfast Fibre 2 Ultrafast Fibre 100 Ultrafast Fibre 250
Price per month inc line rental £27 (for 24mths, then £35) £28 (for 24mths, then £36) £32 (for 24mths, then £40) £35 (for 24mths, then £48) £40 (for 24mths, then £48) £50 (for 24mths, then £53)
Upfront cost £30 £30 £10 £10 £10 £10
Average speed 10Mbits/sec 36Mbits/sec 50Mbits/sec 67Mbits/sec 145Mbits/sec 300Mbits/sec
Usage allowance Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Contract length 24 months 24 months 24 months 24 months 24 months
24 months

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BT Broadband review: Performance

While you might expect BT to lead on performance, our Best Broadband Awards results paint a different picture. Reliability isn’t too much of an issue. Over 65% of the customers we surveyed said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their connection’s reliability, although nearly 13% were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

For speed, however, 10% of BT’s customers were very dissatisfied with a further 13% dissatisfied, giving BT more users unhappy with their speeds than any other ISP except for TalkTalk.

Why? Ofcom’s latest research, conducted in November 2018 and published in 2019, found that the average speeds for BT’s ADSL services over a 24hr period were slower than those of Plusnet and Sky, while BT also had the slowest speeds for 36Mbits/sec fibre broadband, with a 24hr average of 26.6-29.2Mbits/sec against Sky’s 32.3-34.2Mbits/sec and EE’s 32.5-34.8Mbits/sec.

Move up to 67Mbits/sec services and BT pulls ahead of EE and Plusnet, with a 24hr average of 62.4-64.6Mbits/sec against 60-64.9Mbits/sec and 58-61.4Mbits/sec respectively. BT’s faster Ultrafast services also deliver on their claims, with averages of 145.5-148.1Mbits/sec and 300.5-304.1Mbits/sec. It appears BT delivers good performance with its faster services but isn’t doing enough to help customers on lower-end fibre packages, where the speed limitations are more severe and every Mbit/sec counts.

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BT Broadband review: Customer satisfaction

BT isn’t doing badly for customer service. A healthy 35% of users who responded to our survey said they were satisfied with BT here, with a further 18.5% describing themselves as very satisfied. At the same time, BT isn’t short of less happy punters. Some 16.7% said they were dissatisfied, with another 8.3% very dissatisfied. Only TalkTalk, with a miserable 17.5% of its customers very dissatisfied, fared worse.

Funnily enough, BT and TalkTalk held the same position in Ofcom’s most recent customer satisfaction survey (released April 2019). Here, 80% of customers said they were happy with the overall service, putting BT behind Virgin Mobile (85%), Plusnet (86%) and the rest, but still ahead of TalkTalk, at 79%.

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BT Broadband review: Verdict

Overall, BT’s broadband packages offer reliable, consistent internet connections, and customers of its faster fibre services are getting high speeds and a decent router.

However, in almost every case you could save money by choosing a different broadband provider and neither the speeds nor the customer service are strong enough to make it worth sticking with BT. It’s charging premium prices, but it’s not the premium choice.

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