BT broadband and TV review
OVER the last few years BT have experienced a bit of a resurgence: seriously strengthening their broadband and TV deals.
It helps that they've invested millions in the roll out of fibre broadband over the telephone network, offering speeds up to 76Mb and boosting their entry level deal to up to 52Mb.
BT have also strengthened their position as a result of the effort they've made to expand and develop their TV service - mostly through BT Sport - making them a much more serious contender to Virgin and Sky.
Here we'll look at exactly what BT is offering customers with their broadband and TV bundles, examining price, speeds, the router, home phone and of course BT TV.
First though, let's take a quick look at the special offers BT are offering new customers signing up for their standard or Infinity fibre broadband service:
BT Broadband packages
BT offer three main broadband deals; divided by speed from up to 17Mb to up to 52Mb and 76Mb with their fibre Infinity service:
To see prices in full and by postcode see our BT broadband search here.
BT Broadband and TV packages
As with most triple-play providers, bundling more than one service can save money overall - and with BT, adding their TV service doesn't cost that much more as you can see:
To see prices in full and by postcode see our BT TV deals table here.
How fast is BT broadband?
Of course, price isn't everything and as everyone knows when it comes to our broadband service both adequate speeds and general reliability are high up on our list of priorities.
BT Infinity, the provider's fibre service, now covers more than 90% of UK premises.
Take a look at our BT Infinity review for a more specific look at these packages.
Advertised speeds aren't always the real world speeds we experience at home, so let's take a look at data from Ofcom on the actual average speeds customers are receiving.
|Average download speed during period|
|Advertised speed||24 hours||Peak time:
|Up to 17Mb||9.1Mb to 10.8Mb||9.0Mb to 10.6Mb|
|Up to 52Mb||47.7Mb to 48.6Mb||46.9Mb to 47.9Mb|
|Up to 76Mb||57.9Mb to 60.7Mb||57.0Mb to 59.8Mb|
SOURCE: Ofcom, November 2016.
Since February 2013 BT have been offer "totally" unlimited usage as they no longer have a fair use policy in place.
All of BT's deals are now unlimited, where they do offer capped usage deals BT include any data used through BT TV separately to this cap and without charge.
And as long as apps such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix are access through the BT set top box they won't count towards the broadband download limit either.
Customers will even receive additional bandwidth so families watching TV as well as gaming on the computer upstairs won't be competing for the broadband.
BT Home Hubs
A major selling point for BT, in broadband terms, is their range of Home Hubs.
The Home Hub 4, provided to standard broadband customers, offers dual band wireless connections using the 802.11b/g/n protocols; the Home Hub 5 and BT Smart Hub added the faster "ac" protocol to the mix.
The BT Smart Hub, pictured here, has replaced the Home Hub 5 (below) as BT's router of choice for new Infinity customers.
The Smart Hub has more internal aerials and is configured to support what BT are calling "next generation ac" wireless, which should allow for even faster data transfers.
Whichever Hub BT customers have, they all constantly scan for interference from other devices, dynamically changing the wireless channel to maintain a better connection (as opposed to most routers, which just check for the least crowded channel when they're set up).
Given that speeds lost through wireless routers reduce broadband speeds by up to 30% a good router can make a significant difference to broadband connections.
Each also features a USB port, allowing the Hub to act as network storage space or a printer sharer.
Take a look at this guide for how BT's Home Hubs compare against rival hubs.
Free BT wi-fi and other extras
In addition to the free router, BT also bundle additional services rarely included elsewhere.
All BT customers can use the BT Wi-fi hotspot network (formally BT Openzone), the UK's largest free network, by logging in with their BT username and password when they're out and about.
While other providers have switched to a line rental only model, BT have recently moved back to offering all new customers weekend calls included as standard.
Users also get free BT Cloud secure online storage, to back up files.
Existing customers with Unlimited Broadband (17Mb) and Unlimited Infinity 1 now get 200GB; Unlimited Infinity 2 customers get 1TB of space.
The point here is that while BT broadband deals might not seem like the cheapest around, the extra cost isn't just because of the brand name; they do offer value for money.
BT Home Phone
To get broadband, customers must take BT line rental.
While they've recently been ordered to reduce the cost of line rental for landline-only customers, everyone else pays £18.99 - although the total monthly price will vary depending on what other products and inclusive calls are included.
As mentioned above, all new deals come with weekend calls included - with the option to add unlimited evening calls for £3.80 per month or unlimited anytime calls for £8.99 per month.
The return to bundling calls for everyone makes up in part for the fact that BT are almost always in the somewhat ridiculous situation of charging more for line rental than any other provider. Since July 2016 it's been £18.99 a month - compared to just £13.29 in October 2010.
In the past it was possible to shave the equivalent of two months' line rental off the yearly cost by paying upfront - but Line Rental Saver now costs £208.80, a saving of just 10% over 12 months.
At the same time, while it's possible to get Caller ID free of charge, many people have found themselves paying for it. We explain further in this guide. BT also charge for 1571 voicemail - but the monthly fee includes being able to access it from anywhere.
Note, also, that those households needing a new phone line installed - though most won't - can get it done free when they sign up an Infinity package. While those taking unlimited broadband will be charged £30.
Otherwise customers will need to pay £130 for the installation of a new line. Some customers may need to pay a connection fee and there is usually a £50 fee for activating an existing line provided by BT or another provider.
See our new phone line installation guide for more details.
BT TV has gone from strength to strength in the past few years, something we look at in greater depth in our dedicated BT TV review.
BT TV offers Youview; which is Freeview with catch up and a few extra channels; and of course BT Sport.
There are now three versions of the Youview box. The smaller basic version has just one tuner and can't record. This is the main box offered to those with standard broadband, with the most basic BT TV package 'Starter'.
Those with BT Infinity have far more choice. They can plump for the Starter package if they want, but they can also take either 'Entertainment' or 'Max'.
- Starter: up to 80 Freeview channels, catch up including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, and My 5.
- Entertainment: Youview+ box and TV Everywhere app. Channels as Starter, plus 28 extra including Comedy Central Extra, MTV Music, and Movies 24.
- Max: Youview+ 1TB box and TV Everywhere app. Channels as Starter, plus more than 50 premium channels including Kids and HD bundles, and BT Sport Ultra HD.
The Entertainment package comes with the YouView+ box which offers customers the ability to record up to 300 hours of standard definition TV and has two tuners to allow for recording one channel whilst watching another.
The Max package comes with BT's latest set top box. It looks similar to their existing Youview+ box, but it's ultra HD compatible - for BT Sport Ultra HD - and it has a 1TB hard drive for storing recordings. There's more detail on it here.
BT also offer on-demand content and extras, from extra kids' channels to a second box:
- Kids: thousands of on demand cartoons and shows; Kids Extra customers also get nine kids' channels from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney channel shows etc. £4 a month
- Music: music video playlists, albums and documentaries. £4 a month
- Netflix: from £5.99 a month
- HD pack: Adds HD versions of 13 of the extra channels, as well as BT Sport in HD. £5 a month
- Sky Cinema: 11 live channels plus on demand channel. £13.50 a month.
- Sky Sports 1 and 2 for £27.50 a month in SD, or £33.50 a month in HD.
- TV Everywhere with Extra Box: a second Youview box for watching BT TV in another room, plus access on other devices. £5 a month, plus £49 or £99 one-off fee depending on which box we choose as our second.
The live Sky channels, HD pack, and Extra Box are only available for Infinity customers.
BT Sport and Sky Sports
BT now has exclusive rights to many football matches on their BT Sports channel including all of the UEFA League games, numerous Premier League and Scottish Premier League games and FA Cup matches, plus the Aviva Premiership Rugby, MotoGP, NASCAR and others.
BT Sport is priced at £3.50 a month for all BT TV customers within contract, £5 a month for those who have BT Broadband but not BT TV, and at least £5 a month for those subscribing through another TV provider.
See full guide to BT Sport for more on how it works.
As mentioned above, Sky Sports is available for £27.50 in SD for anyone with Infinity. Getting the Sky Sports channels in HD on BT costs £33.50 a month.
How good is BT customer service?
Let's be honest, few of us have considered taking BT broadband for the service. They're a huge provider with a huge number of variably trained call centre staff.
At one point we might as well have replaced this section with a giant thumbs down picture, but they've improved a lot over the past couple of years, and they're promising to invest in further improving their customer service.
A particular upside is a really well staffed and useful online customer forum which can help with niggling service problems.
Verdict: Is BT broadband and TV any good?
They're also bringing innovation to the market: the smart wireless provided by all their Home Hubs, free BT wi-fi, and launching the first Ultra HD channel in the UK - go a large way to justifying the provider's less than rock bottom prices.
For more on BT's deals - see our main BT deals page here.