BT vs TalkTalk broadband

ByDuncan Heaney
BT vs TalkTalk

BT and TalkTalk: they're two of the UK's biggest broadband providers, with packages that - on the surface at least - are quite similar. But are they really, and which is best?

BT (www.BT.com) and TalkTalk (www.TalkTalk.co.uk) broadband both offer fibre optic packages, unlimited downloads and . But which is the best? As the great Harry Hill would say, there's only one way to find out: FIIIIIGHT!

Oh wait, no. We mean COMPAAARE THEM!

Cost

Let's start with a big one: how much does each provider cost?

At full price, BT technically offers the , with a low-end option that has a 12GB monthly download limit. It's decent if you're a very light user who only uses the web for light browsing and email, but for most people that extremely limited download limit isn't going to go a long way.

Fortunately, both offer unlimited packages - that's all TalkTalk does, in fact - and for most people, these are the ones to get. Generally, TalkTalk works out cheaper for broadband, particularly superfast fibre, while BT offers more in the way of features and extras. That said, special offers can change that, so make sure you compare broadband to see which deals are available.

Also, bear in mind that the prices that BT and TalkTalk advertise don't factor in line rental, which you'll have to pay with both providers. Again, TalkTalk is slightly cheaper, though we're talking a matter of pennies here.

Here are some current deals from BT:

BT broadband deals

BT
BT
BT
Unlimited Broadband + weekend calls Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend Calls Unlimited Infinity 2 + Weekend Calls
Monthly cost £5.00 (for 12 months, then £20.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £67.95 Monthly cost £10.00 (for 12 months, then £26.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £176.95 Monthly cost £25.00 (for 12 months, then £32.50 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £307.95
Up To 17 Mb Up To 52 Mb Up To 76 Mb
Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc.
Go
Call BT on 0800 783 5390
Mon to Sun 8am-6.30pm
Go
Call BT on 0800 783 5390
Mon to Sun 8am-6.30pm
Go
Call BT on 0800 783 5390
Mon to Sun 8am-6.30pm

And here are some of the best deals TalkTalk's got going:

TalkTalk broadband deals

TalkTalk
TalkTalk
TalkTalk
Fibre Medium with SimplyBroadband Fibre Large with SimplyBroadband Essentials TV + Fibre Large
Monthly cost £8.75 (for 18 months, then £17.50 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £111.75 Monthly cost £13.75 (for 18 months, then £22.50 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £171.75 Monthly cost £17.50 (for 18 months, then £22.50 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £216.75
Up To 38 Mb Up To 76 Mb Up To 76 Mb
Pay as you go Pay as you go Eve & wknd calls inc.
Channels 0 Channels 0 Channels 76
Go
Call TalkTalk on 0800 049 7843
Mon to Thurs 8am-10pmFri to Sun 8am-9pm
Go
Call TalkTalk on 0800 049 7843
Mon to Thurs 8am-10pmFri to Sun 8am-9pm
Go
Call TalkTalk on 0800 049 7843
Mon to Thurs 8am-10pmFri to Sun 8am-9pm

Verdict: TalkTalk is normally cheaper than BT, so if you have a tight budget, we'd give it a nod. Be careful not to focus too much on price though - look what you get for that money and make sure it's enough for you, before making a decision.

Speed

Both BT and TalkTalk share the same basic infrastructure, and their cheapest packages offer speeds of up to 17Mb - though in truth, you'll likely get less than that.

The truth is that so many things can affect your connection - distance from the exchange, the number of people sharing the network, the quality of the wiring in your house - that it's difficult to call one out as better than the other without a line test on your specific property.

Both BT and TalkTalk also do fibre. BT offers 52Mb or 76Mb packages, while TalkTalk has 38Mb and 76Mb packages available. Because fibre optic cables are more reliable than copper wire, you're likely to get speeds that much closer to those advertised - though there will still be some fluctuation.

Verdict: BT's entry-level packages offer faster speeds than TalkTalk's. When you sign up to a package, a provider will give you an indication of the speeds you can realistically expect to get.

Download limits

Some BT packages do have download limits. For example, the BT broadband and weekend calls package, which is aimed at very light users, gives you just 12GB a month. Exceed it, and you'll need to pay for more.

However, it also does , which let you use the web as much as you like, without fear of being cut off. There's no traffic management either, meaning BT won't slow your connection at peak times or for certain activities.

As for TalkTalk… well, just read the previous paragraph and replace the word BT with TalkTalk. All TalkTalk packages are unlimited, and like BT there's no traffic management.

That means TalkTalk and BT are both safe choices here. An unlimited package lets you watch as much iPlayer or Netflix as you want, download all the music you like, play games into the wee hours of the morning - it'll never be a problem for your broadband. It's also near-essential if you have a large family, or live in a shared house (fibre also helps here).

Verdict: Another draw. Choose an unlimited package and you'll be able to download as much as you like, regardless of whether you choose TalkTalk or BT.

Call plans

As standard, BT broadband packages give you inclusive weekend calls to UK landlines. If your chattiness simply can't be constrained to Saturday and Sunday, you can also upgrade to Evening and Weekend Calls (inclusive calls all weekend and between 7pm and 7am on weekdays) or Anytime Calls (inclusive calls 24/7).

TalkTalk gives you pay as you go calls as standard. If you want a that has inclusive calls, you'll have to add it on. A number of 'boosts' are available, including Anytime UK calls and International calls, but you'll have to pay an extra charge to get them.

Verdict: BT has more bundled call options, and takes the win.

Extras

Joining BT gives you loads of perks, but it has one heck of an extra in BT Sport. Every broadband package gets BT Sport Lite as standard to watch online and via the BT Sport smartphone app. That gives you BT Sport 1 - enough to watch BT's Premier League football coverage and Aviva Premiership rugby. If you want more sports channels, including BT Sport Europe, which hosts BT's exclusive Champions League coverage, you'll need to upgrade to the full BT Sport package or get a broadband and TV bundle.

Other useful extras include free access to BT's massive network of Wi-Fi hotspots, free BT Cloud online storage, and network-level security, which blocks off sites that are considered harmful - think viruses, phishing attacks and other such scams. Parental controls are also available, to block sites containing pornography or other potentially harmful content.

If you want a full internet security package, you can also add BT NetProtect Plus, which helps protect computers from viruses and spyware. It's included in the unlimited BT Infinity and Unlimited Broadband extra packages. Otherwise, you need to add it on for an additional charge each month.

While BT is full of flash and sizzle when it comes to extras, TalkTalk is more about simplicity and affordability - there's not much in the way of bells and whistles. Everyone gets an email account and HomeSafe network level protection - when activated, it automatically blocks sites known to contain viruses, as well as material that might be inappropriate for the kids.

You can also choose add-ons, or 'Boosts' in TalkTalk-speak. For example, the SuperSafe Boost (included as standard if you get a Plus TV package) adds internet security for up to eight devices.

Verdict: BT has many more features, including cloud storage, access to public hotspots and free BT Sport Lite for all customers.

TV

Both BT and TalkTalk offer TV packages based around YouView. That means they share a lot of the same attributes, including Freeview channels, smartly integrated catch-up TV, and on demand apps like Netflix.

A basic BT TV Starter or TalkTalk Essentials package gets you more than 70 channels. If you want more you can get premium bundles, like BT Total Entertainment or TalkTalk Plus TV. BT gives you up to 120+ channels. You can add even more with bolt-ons, which include Netflix, Music, Kids, and Sky Movies.

TalkTalk is more flexible. It offers 'Boosts' - extra bundles of channels - which you can add on to your package at any time. TalkTalk has more of these boosts than BT, covering entertainment, Sky movies, kids TV, music TV, Asian channels and more. To see what you can get, check out our full guide to TalkTalk boosts.

Sports is one of the biggest differences between the two. BT TV gives you the full BT Sport pack - including Champions League coverage - and you can add on Sky Sports 1 and 2 for a premium rate. TalkTalk lets you add all Sky Sports channels as a boost, but BT Sport is not available at all. So basically, if you want BT Sport, go BT, if you want Sky Sports, go TalkTalk. Or, if you have a big budget you can always choose Virgin Media and get everything.

Verdict: Draw. Read our guide BT TV vs TalkTalk TV for loads of information about the channels, movies and on-demand shows you can get from each. 

Final verdict

We'd love to be able to say that TalkTalk is better than BT, or vice-versa, but the (admittedly irritatingly inconclusive) truth is that there's no right or wrong choice here. The provider that you should go with depends almost entirely on what you want and need. For example, if price is the most important thing, TalkTalk is generally the cheaper option. On the other hand, if you're an armchair sportsman, that free BT Sport's mighty appealing.

But with luck, you now have a better idea of what you get from each provider. The next step is to use our postcode checker to see great BT and TalkTalk deals in your area, and compare deals side by side so you can decide for yourself what's best for you.

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