BT explained: is the biggest provider the best?
BT (www.BT.com) is the provider that does it all. Standard broadband? Check. Superfast fibre? Check. Subscription TV and exclusive live sports, including Premier League and Champions League matches? Check and check. Available almost everywhere? Big check. It’s no surprise then that it’s the biggest broadband provider in the UK.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best for you. In this guide, we’ll look at what you can get from BT, what we think are its strengths and weaknesses, and what BT’s own customers think of the provider.
What does BT do?
When it comes to broadband, BT is all things to all people. It has one of the broadest selections of broadband packages around, offering everything from affordable packages with 25GB usage limits - a good choice for light users who only want email and browse the web - to truly unlimited packages that let you download as much as you like - great for people who stream a lot of TV and movies online. You get online storage and use of public Wi-Fi hotspots thrown in for no extra cost too.
Fibre’s a big step up from standard broadband, offering faster download and upload speeds, and more reliability. It’s a sensible choice for families and shared houses, or just people who use the web extensively for watching movies and TV, downloading music, gaming, video calls and more.
BT sells its fibre optic broadband as BT Infinity, and offers a choice between speeds of up to 52Mb - with a 25GB usage limit or truly unlimited - or up to 76Mb - truly unlimited-only. Typical contracts are 12 months long, though some deals may be 18 months.
BT TV is based around YouView, which lets you pause, rewind and record Freeview channels, and access lots of on-demand TV. It’s all very nicely integrated - for example, if you miss an episode of your favourite show, you can simply scroll back to it in the interactive guide and start watching it on the relevant catch-up service. BT Sport is included, naturally, and you can also add extra channels like Sky Sports. You can even get Netflix if you want.
You have three basic options. Starter gives you a YouView box with no recording function - though you can still pause and rewind.
Entertainment comes with a YouView+ box, and more than 80 channels, including premium channels like Fox, MTV, the Discovery Channel, and Comedy Central.
Finally, the Max package includes all the channels of the Entertainment option, but also includes more HD and kids' channels. It comes with a 1TB Ultra HD YouView box, which supports BT Sport Ultra HD. A noticeable improvement on standard high-definition, Ultra HD offers exceptional image sharpness, but you will need an Ultra HD television to watch it. And it's the only way to get BT Sport totally free.
BT TV is only available with BT broadband. It’s cheaper than Sky and Virgin Media TV, although it has fewer channels and features. Check out our complete guide to BT TV channels for the full lowdown.
Most BT broadband packages come with a call plan - which you can also get standalone without any broadband at all. The cheapest option is Unlimited Weekend Calls, which let you call UK landlines for free on Saturdays and Sundays. You can also choose Unlimited Evening & Weekend Calls - inclusive landline calls on weekends and between 7pm and 7am on weekdays - or Unlimited Anytime Calls - inclusive landline calls… erm, anytime.
In 2015, BT bought EE for a massive £12.5 billion. It uses the network to offer both sim-only and pay monthly contract plans.
There are four different sim-only plans, which give you a choice between 500MB, 2GB, 6GB or 20GB of data per month, as well as unlimited texts, and inclusive minutes to landlines and mobiles.
If you want a handset, you can choose between a limited range that includes big boys like the iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7, as well as lower cost phones for those on a smaller budget. It's not the biggest list of devices you'll see, but they're all quality phones.
All BT Mobile plans are 4G - which means you get mobile internet up to five times faster than you get with 3G plans - and lots of extras, including the BT Sport app, free BT Wi-Fi hotspot access, and more. Plus if you have BT broadband, you get a £5 discount on your monthly mobile phone bill.
Whether you’re setting up your own business or a home office, BT Business might be a better choice than home broadband. BT Business packages are primarily aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, and range from 10GB usage limits - suitable for sole traders - to superfast unlimited options - good for an office. You can also get leased lines, statics IP addresses and more.
BT existing customer deals
BT likes to look after its customers by offering exclusive deals just for BT households. These will let you add extra stuff to your existing package for free or at a much lower cost - perfect if you want to see how BT’s other services work for you. By grabbing more things from the same provider, you’ll get easier monthly bills that often cost less.
What’s good about BT?
- Widest availability of all UK providers
- Has arguably the broadest choice of packages - there’s an option to suit most types of user
- Truly unlimited packages with no fair usage policies or traffic management - perfect for heavy users or anyone who wants peace of mind they can use the web as much as they like
- BT Infinity is great for families and shared houses where lots of people use the internet at the same time
- Online storage and BT router included with all packages
- More affordable TV than Sky or Virgin Media
- Lots of extras for TV, including more channels and on-demand box sets and movies
- Full BT Sport suite, including Champions League coverage free with some TV packages
- The Champions League is exclusive to BT Sport
- Sky Sports Main Event and Extra available with TV packages
- Affordable and simple to understand mobile phone plans
- High-quality phones available on pay monthly contracts
- Widest 4G network coverage in the UK
- Discounts on mobile phone plans for existing BT customers
- Mobile plans come with lots of extras, including the BT Sport app
What’s bad about BT?
- BT Infinity isn’t available everywhere - use our postcode checker to see if you can get it in
- Broadband typically more expensive than other providers
- Not the cheapest broadband or line rental in the UK
- BT TV has fewer channels and features than Sky or Virgin Media
- Champions League not included with BT broadband-only packages - requires an extra monthly subscription
- While BT Infinity is plenty nippy, it isn’t the fastest broadband available in the UK
- Limited choice of handsets on pay monthly mobile plans
- 4G not available everywhere in the UK
- No pay as you go mobile plans
- Those irritating adverts
In our last Customer Satisfaction Awards, BT customers were largely positive about the provider. They rated BT highly for quality and reliability, activation speed and commended the BT Home Hub router. However, they were more critical when it came to value for money and the speed of its broadband.
See our complete BT review for more.