BT Infinity review: is it any good?
TO infinity and... well, that's it. Here's our BT Infinity review.
From the latest offers to the last word on speeds, this review covers everything there is to know about BT's superfast Infinity broadband service.
The seven things we need to know
To keep things simple we've boiled BT Infinity down to seven things customers should really know to get the measure of the service.
1. Better special offers
BT have for a while been known to offer gift cards of various values to new customers signing up to take Infinity online; recently they've been tending to offer prepaid MasterCards as 'BT Reward cards'.
Note too that they tend to offer more rewarding deals for those signing up for Infinity than they do with their standard broadband packages.
These deals change frequently, however, so it's worth keeping an eye out and timing any possible moves to grab a good one.
Check out the latest rewards BT are offering with their services below:
To get any of the deals click on the red "get this deal" button above. Or for more information on rewards and deals visit BT's website by clicking here.
2. Infinity is the best way to get BT TV
BT TV is only available to those with BT Broadband.
While everyone with BT TV can get BT Sport, lots of the other extras are reserved for those who have BT Infinity.
That includes the bulk of the premium channels Sky Cinema and Sky Sports channels plus the HD packs.
What's more many of the extra channel options come with rolling contracts so it's possible to get a feel for paid for content without having to commit for a whole year.
There's more on BT TV in our full review here.
3. Faster fibre is available more widely than ever
Since last year, over six and a half years after Infinity's launch, the fibre service extended its network to reach just over 90% of the UK.
And they're not stopping there. BT have pledged to increase their reach even further, the aim is 95% of premises by the end of 2017.
Furthermore, now a large part of the basic work is done, BT are starting to improve on what Infinity broadband can offer. They've recently upgraded their Infinity 1 package to offer speeds up to 52Mb rather than 38Mb.
See further detail on the effects of this speed upgrade below.
Even so, there are still areas that can't yet receive any kind of Infinity broadband, and others that can only get a limited range of deals, so it's worth checking with a postcode search:
Enter your postcode above to check availability in your area.
For those in Infinity-ready areas, the deals break down like this:
For more information on the various package options, including bundling calls and TV deals, and the extras available, see our main BT review here.
All of BT's broadband deals now boast unlimited data usage, a much welcomed changed from their previous rather stingy usage limits.
Yet not everyone needs such generous data allowances. Whilst unlimited data packages are now pretty widespread, they are more expensive than capped plans. Meaning lighter internet users might be able to get away with a cheaper, albeit limited broadband deal.
For those who want to get a good idea of how much data they're likely to use - we've put together a guide here.
BT relaxed their traffic management policies for unlimited customers a long time ago and say they're "very proud" that everyone who takes their broadband can now download what they what, from wherever they want - and they won't be slowed down for doing so.
It's a bold claim from such a large provider, and one we've kept an eye on. For more on this visit our guide to fair use here.
4. You need a BT phone line
Another point worth noting from the table above is that BT Infinity subscribers need to have a working BT phone line and pay BT for their line rental.
We've included the cost of line rental with BT Infinity in the tables above - on its own it's £18.99 a month, which is at the top end of what UK ISPs charge. It's possible to bring that down by about 10% by paying for a year's line rental upfront, at a one-off cost of £205.08.
Both of these prices have remained unchanged since BT implemented their latest round of price rises, and as with their 2016 hikes, they're keen to point out that customers will benefit from extra services and better standards.
As a result of 2016's increases, BT are now rather unusual in including weekend calls with every broadband and phone package they sell; previously they'd often sold their capped data deals without any kind of inclusive call.
But while those getting Unlimited Infinity have the choice between adding evening calls to that allowance for £3.80 a month, or getting anytime calls for £8.99, those getting the 17Mb Unlimited Broadband package can only upgrade to the anytime bundle.
All customers, however, can throw in a Friends and Family International calls package for £1.65 a month as well as an International Freedom calls package for £7.80 a month, to ensure cheaper rates when calling abroad.
5. The BT Smart Hub is a cut above
All Infinity broadband deals now come with the BT Smart Hub, replacing the Home Hub 5.
Like the much earlier Home Hub 4, described in the video below, the router has been designed to cut out signal interference that can slow down wireless connections in the home.
The Smart Hub supports "next generation AC" standards on 5GHz, and the fastest available wireless protocols on the slower 2.4GHz band.
The simultaneous dual band signal means the router is able to provide two separate network connections - one for newer, faster, devices, and one for older equipment, or devices out of range of the 5GHz signal.
In brief, this means devices that can connect at the fastest speeds aren't affected by older devices, mobile phones or other equipment around the home like remote controlled toys or microwaves.
The hub also boasts seven internal antennae - two more then the Home Hub 5, for more, stronger, connections - four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a faster processor.
Each new Hub has slightly improved on the power saving ability of the last, helping to reduce consumption when the network isn't being used, without disconnecting the broadband - something which can cause havoc with smart equipment in the exchange, reducing speeds on what it detects to be an "unstable" line.
The Hub is also able to monitor the home internet connection; rebooting when it detects a problem to establish a fresh connection for your added convenience when surfacing the web.
All in all, the BT Smart Hub offers far more than most other ISPs' routers.
6. BT Infinity really is superfast
BT and Virgin Media are the only major UK infrastructure providers to offer FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) broadband throughout the country.
Both are using more or less the same technology: fibre to a cabinet, one of those green boxes on the street, and then copper cable from the cabinet to the home.
However, a slight difference in delivery - explained further here - means that BT have previously advertised speeds of "up to" 38Mb or 76Mb - slower than Virgin's up to 100Mb, 200Mb or 300Mb broadband deals, as they're now advertised.
The difference in delivery also results in a difference in the actual performance speeds of both ISPs. And the speed difference has been very real - even when we bring Infinity 2 into the equation.
The most recent Ofcom research into speeds, released in March 2017, found the following averages:
|Advertised speed||Ofcom average speed
(over 24 hours)
|Up to 200Mb||169.0Mb - 177.2Mb|
|Up to 100Mb||87.7Mb - 95.2Mb|
|Up to 76Mb||57.9Mb - 60.7Mb|
|Up to 52Mb||47.7Mb - 48.6Mb|
SOURCE: Ofcom, March 2017.
Aside from the obvious speed differences between BT and Virgin Media, these figures demonstrate that fibre broadband connections are far less likely to see speeds drop over long distances or suffer problems with interference.
All in all both providers come much closer to delivering on the speeds they advertise.
Virgin may have the edge - for now - but both really do deliver.
That said, BT Infinity beats Virgin on speeds when it comes to uploads.
With their up to 76Mb deal, BT promise up to 19Mb upload speeds while Virgin Media deliver upload speeds of less than 10% of download speeds (their 100Mb and 200Mb deals have top upload speeds of just 12Mb).
Previous Ofcom tests published in March 2016 have also revealed the upload speeds on offer, and the averages achieved over a 24-hour period:
|Advertised Speed||Ofcom Average Speed|
|up to 76Mb
|up to 152Mb / 200Mb
|up to 38Mb
|up to 100Mb
|up to 50Mb
SOURCE: Ofcom, March 2016.
Please note Virgin's 152Mb service was upped to a 200Mb service during the period when the data for this study was collected.
A very small number of households may also have one of BT's two ultrafast packages, offering up to 160Mb or 300Mb.
Based on BT's fibre to the home technology (FTTH, also known as FTTP - to the premises), the cost of installation and taking the service meant that after a short period on sale in a very limited number of locations, it's not been available to order since.
Instead we're more likely to see BT pushing Fibre "To A Bit Further Than The Cabinet" in the form of 330Mb capable G.fast broadband technology. BT have just started to switch-on the pilot locations for this service, which currently covers 138,000 premises, and expect it to available nationwide by 2025.
For a fuller comparison of broadband speeds see our fastest broadband guide here.
7. BT can sometimes be the cheapest provider of Infinity broadband
The BT Openreach fibre service is available from other providers, which means customers can get almost the same thing for a different price, elsewhere.
Putting to one side the introduction of that pesky 52Mb service, which makes a fair comparison that little bit more complicated, the competition between the providers means that there are always plenty of offers and discounts to be found.
Taking those into account, every now and then it'd turn out that BT were offering some of the best value deals - sometimes beating some of the "budget" providers.
Here's a quick breakdown of the main contenders selling BT Infinity in its various forms:
Packages offering BT fibre "up to 38Mb" speeds:
Packages offering BT fibre "up to 52Mb" speeds:
|Package||Broadband||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend calls||Up to 52Mb
for 12 mths,
Packages offering BT fibre "up to 76Mb" speeds:
The wholesale product behind these packages is the same, and even the underlying physical engineering support is carried out by BT Openreach.
Because of this, every ISP who resells BT fibre now has the option to resell the 52Mb service as well; although at the time of writing none of the other ISPs are doing so.
Give it some time and we may see it becoming available on a wider basis, which will allow for simpler comparison.
In the meantime, the other difference between the ISPs reselling BT fibre, whatever the speed, is that each have their own customer service, technical support (before calling in Openreach, that is), traffic management and usage policies, and different add-on features and benefits.
In other words, it was never quite as simple as comparing by price alone, as the ISPs listed above don't necessarily offer an identical service.
For that reason, we've written a separate guide to the differences between the providers reselling BT fibre here.
So: is BT Infinity broadband any good?
BT Infinity broadband is superfast. But what's more it's a superfast service from one of the biggest broadband providers around, who have a reputation for high quality customer care and great add-on services.
That means 24/7 telephone support, and optional extras like TV, online storage, and free public wi-fi.
The deals compare fairly well with Virgin Media and with the ISPs who offer a resold Infinity service. And while other providers, including Plusnet (reviewed here) offer seemingly similar deals at lower prices than BT, they tend to come without quite so many perks.
And as we wrap up our BT Infinity review... race to Infinity sounds about right.