BT vs TalkTalk: Which provider is best?

Last updated: 25 October 2021   By Samantha Smith

BT and TalkTalk are two of the UK's major broadband providers. TalkTalk is a budget brand, while BT is more premium.

bt or talktalk

At a glance

BT TalkTalk
Price From £27.99/mth From £23.50/mth
Basic broadband Up to 10Mb average
Unlimited
Up to 11Mb average
Unlimited
Superfast fibre broadband 36Mb, 50Mb or 67Mb 36Mb or 63Mb
Ultrafast fibre broadband 100Mb, 500Mb or 900Mb 145Mb, 290Mb or 550Mb
Inclusive calls None None
Anytime calls £15.67/mth £12/mth
TV Available for extra Available for extra
Minimum term 12 months / 24 months 12 months / 18 months / 24 months

Special Offers

BT and TalkTalk frequently create new special offers or sweeteners. They change often, so keep an eye on our live-updated table below.

Here are the current offers available:

Offer Terms

£50 BT Reward card with BT Full Fibre 100 just £29.99 a month with free setup

Hurry! Offer ends in 4 days!
25 April 2024

24 month minimum term. No setup fee. From £34.99/mth after 24 months. BT offers are subject to price increases on the 31st March 2024 by CPI +3.9%.


£50 BT Reward card with BT Fibre 1 just £29.99 a month with free setup

Hurry! Offer ends in 4 days!
25 April 2024

24 month minimum term. No setup fee. From £34.99/mth after 24 months. BT offers are subject to price increases on the 31st March 2024 by CPI +3.9%.


Offer Terms

TalkTalk full fibre broadband from just £28 per month for months.

18 month minimum term. No setup fee. Monthly price will rise annually by CPI + 3.7% in April.


NOW Cinema just £4.99 a month for 12 months with TalkTalk TV and broadband

18 month minimum term on broadband (required). Monthly-rolling contract on TV.


Broadband deals

Winner: TalkTalk win on price alone, but BT's range of broadband deals will appeal to many customers.

BT and TalkTalk offer a range of broadband deals with superfast speeds and ultrafast options available. They also still offer basic copper broadband, although the costs of these deals are high in comparison.

If price is the main consideration, TalkTalk will usually win, but BT broadband has an intermediate superfast tier and more premium features to tempt customers too.

Watch out for contract lengths too: BT offer 24-month contracts as standard but customers can choose 12-month deals for an increased monthly fee when they click through to their website and go to the check-out.

TalkTalk offer 12-month, 18-month and 24-month contracts to customers with prices varying depending on the offers available at the time. 18-month deals are their typical contract length, however, so we've chosen to compare those with BT's standard 24-month deals.

For a complete run-down see our dedicated reviews of BT Broadband and our review of TalkTalk.

Superfast fibre broadband

Winner: TalkTalk's current pricing structure puts them well ahead of BT for comparable average speeds.

BT offer three superfast fibre packages in comparison to the two offered by TalkTalk.

Both have a standard lowest fibre tier (TalkTalk advertise 38Mb, BT advertise 36Mb). BT also offer an intermediate 50Mb package that costs slightly more. Both providers offer a 67Mb tier.

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Fibre 35 38Mb average £26 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Free setup and P&P
Fibre 65 67Mb average £26 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Free setup and P&P
Fibre Essential 36Mb average £33.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: Reduced price for 24 months + (Ends 25/04/2024)
Fibre 1 50Mb average £29.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £5/mth and free setup (was £31.99) (Ends 25/04/2024)
Fibre 2 67Mb average £36.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + + (Ends 25/04/2024)

The cost of BT's Superfast Fibre 2 broadband is over a third more than TalkTalk's top-tier Superfast fibre. In fact, even their mid-tier 50Mb broadband is a few pounds more expensive than TalkTalk's 67Mb package.

TalkTalk don't charge set-up fees while BT usually do, although these are sometimes waived in special offers.

BT also often include reward cards with their broadband as a special offer, so keep an eye on our comparison tables for those deals too.

Ultrafast broadband

Winner: BT offer faster speeds overall, although prices are similar.

BT ultrafast fibre to the premises (FTTP) deals are available to over 5 million customers with speeds of up to 900Mb available. These deals are branded as BT Full Fibre.

Meanwhile, TalkTalk has switched on ultrafast services in more than 20 towns and cities across the UK as part of their Future Fibre packages (these are marked "data only" in the table below). They also offer specific ultrafast services to 2.8 million customers on the G.fast network.

Here are how their deals look side-by-side:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Fibre 150 145Mb average £35 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Free setup and P&P
Full Fibre 100 150Mb average £29.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £9/mth and free setup (was £31.99) (Ends 25/04/2024)
Full Fibre 500 500Mb average £34.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £15/mth and free setup (was £31.99) (Ends 25/04/2024)
Full Fibre 900 900Mb average £59.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card (Ends 25/04/2024)

BT offer a faster package at a competitive price point, even if customers will have to pay a small set-up fee to get going.

Ultrafast broadband pricing is the next big competition for ISPs and we can see that reflected in TalkTalk's full fibre data only pricing.

Yet customers looking at the range of deals (especially when some are aimed at G.fast households) can be highly confusing for customers. Read more about ultrafast broadband to understand the differences.

Basic broadband

Winner: TalkTalk's standard broadband is cheaper than BT's but still an expensive option.

BT and TalkTalk offer similar basic broadband deals, with average download speeds of 10Mb for BT and 11Mb for TalkTalk.

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Fast Broadband 11Mb average £32 £69.95 18 months
Broadband 10Mb average £29.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: Reduced price for 24 months

Both BT and TalkTalk have increased the prices of their basic copper broadband in recent years to encourage people to shift over to fibre instead.

TalkTalk were explicit about this, announcing in early 2021 they were raising the prices of copper broadband above superfast fibre deliberately and permanently.

For the 3% of households across the UK who can still only access copper broadband, this feels unfair and customers would be better checking our cheapest broadband guide for a look at the cheapest providers on basic broadband too.


Price

Winner: TalkTalk live up to their budget broadband reputation.

It's clear from the deals listed in the tables above that TalkTalk focus on offering broadband at affordable prices.

They are also committed to no set-up fees, eliminating extra upfront charges that can put people off switching their broadband or choosing a specific provider.

This usually means they're cheaper than BT, even if their rival has special offers on reducing or waiving their set-up fees.

It becomes more complicated when we look at the variety of ultrafast deals available from each provider, but TalkTalk still offer excellent value for money and are usually the cheapest provider.


Speed

Winner: Draw - TalkTalk speeds are more reliable at entry-level superfast but BT have the edge on faster deals.

BT offer advertised broadband speeds of 10Mb, 36Mb, 50Mb, 67Mb, 100Mb, 500Mb and 900Mb while TalkTalk offer 11Mb, 38Mb, 67Mb, 145Mb, 290Mb and 550Mb.

Not all speeds will be available to all customers, so be sure to search for broadband deals in your area.

BT offers a wider selection of broadband deals including an intermediate 50Mb superfast package that offers a great bridge between the usual superfast speeds.

Ofcom's annual speed test data shows how broadband packages perform in the real world. In the most recent data, we can see TalkTalk win on some packages while BT are ahead on others.

Looking at the two providers' comparable superfast packages, we can see that TalkTalk take the lead on the lowest superfast tier. Both providers performed poorly compared to their advertised speeds, but BT's figures are worse than TalkTalk's.

Ofcom average speeds, published March 2023
Advertised average speed Over 24hrs Peak time
(8-10pm weekdays)
BT 36Mb 32.36Mb 32.00Mb
TalkTalk 38Mb 35.68Mb 34.73Mb
BT 50Mb 43.79Mb 42.54Mb

The higher superfast tier is much more competitive, with BT edging in front, especially at peak times.

Ofcom average speeds, published March 2023
Advertised average speed Over 24hrs Peak time
(8-10pm weekdays)
BT 67Mb 63.76Mb 62.95Mb
TalkTalk 67Mb 61.70Mb 60.85Mb
TalkTalk 77Mb 79.96Mb 79.96Mb

Bear in mind that both BT and TalkTalk are pushing FTTP connections, even if a customer is only taking superfast broadband. So, a full fibre connection will deliver faster speeds anyway and will offer improved reliability too.

While both BT and TalkTalk offer ultrafast services as discussed above, we only have Ofcom panellist data for some BT ultrafast packages since TalkTalk's are not as widely available yet.

Ofcom average speeds, published March 2023
Advertised average speed Over 24hrs Peak time
(8-10pm weekdays)
BT 145Mb 148.72Mb 148.26Mb
TalkTalk 152Mb 159.90Mb 159.91Mb
BT 300Mb 302.34Mb 300.99Mb
TalkTalk 525Mb 451.64Mb 451.34Mb

BT ultrafast speeds broadly live up to expectations thanks to the full fibre technology used.

TalkTalk customers can expect to receive similarly fast speeds for their full fibre ultrafast services, although customers should watch out for G.fast services that still use FTTC technology and run copper wire into the home.


Routers

Winner: BT's Smart Hub 2 offers next generation capability while TalkTalk's Wi-Fi Hub improves technology for budget customers.

Both BT and TalkTalk have released routers that are designed to improve the performance of their top fibre packages.

BT's Smart Hub 2 ultrafast router aims to boost wi-fi signals around the home to reduce blackspots and ensure comprehensive coverage via its boosting discs.

bt smart hub 2

Customers taking out Complete Wi-Fi (guaranteed strong signal in every room) or Halo 2 (BT's VIP tier) receive the new hub which has been designed with ultrafast speeds in mind.

Other superfast broadband customers will receive the original Smart Hub - still a good bit of kit, with dual-band wi-fi and 4 Gigabit ethernet ports.

All BT hubs continually scan for interference from other devices and dynamically adjust wireless channels to maintain strong connections. This contrasts with many routers that simply look for the least-crowded channel when they are set up.

BT's hubs are also 'future-proof' in terms of broadband improvements, capable of supporting speeds up to 1,000Mbps. This means that when BT's broadband offering improves the router does not need to be upgraded.

TalkTalk's latest Wi-Fi Hub known as the Wi-Fi Hub Black is standard for all new fibre customers.

The Wi-Fi Hub has been designed for households with high demand and is optimised to function on the TalkTalk network.

talktalk broadband router

Like BT's hubs, TalkTalk's router uses next generation wi-fi technology to adjust the signal level within a house, enabling the prioritisation of devices with high demands automatically.

Customers signing up to TalkTalk's ultrafast packages will receive the Award-Winning Wi-Fi Hub. This is designed to work with ultrafast speeds and offers greater connectivity for those customers.

While TalkTalk's routers are reasonable for a budget internet provider, this is the point where the extra costs of BT broadband begin to pay off with higher quality hardware.

Find out more about how BT and TalkTalk hubs compare against other competitors in our best wireless router guide.


Broadband extras

Winner: BT's price begins to justify itself when extras are considered, offering a far greater range of inclusive benefits including hotspot access and free cloud storage.

Security features such as BT Virus Protection and BT Parental Controls are offered as standard to all broadband customers. Equally, customers can manage all their services in one place on the My BT Apple and Android app.

BT Cloud storage is included with all BT broadband packages, allowing files and photos to be stored securely online.

The amount of free storage depends on the customer's broadband package as detailed in the table:

Package Free cloud storage
Broadband 200GB
Superfast Fibre Essential 200GB
Superfast Fibre 1 (and above) 1,000GB (1TB)

Customers who need more space can buy 50GB for £3 per month, or 500GB for £9 per month. That's pretty expensive - Dropbox and Google One both charge from £7.99 per month for 2TB.

Subscription to BT broadband also enables free access to the UK's largest network of wi-fi hotspots, with over 5 million currently available. The BT Wi-Fi app will automatically connect when a mobile device is in range of one of the hotspots.

People who aren't BT subscribers have to pay £39 per month for access, so it's a significant perk.

TalkTalk, in line with their lower prices, offer significantly less in terms of broadband extras.

They have a Great Connection Guarantee that allows new customers to leave within 30 days with no penalty if they're unhappy with the service.

It is worth noting, though, that the guarantee is only available on their fibre packages and not on their basic broadband package. It also seems to be absent from their ultrafast deals too.

TalkTalk also operate TalkSafe, an innovative service that allows customers to use their voice as their password and therefore saves time during service calls.

BT are far superior to TalkTalk when you add extras into the mix. However, as TalkTalk functions as a value broadband provider, this isn't too much of a surprise.


Call plans

Winner: It's a draw. Neither TalkTalk nor BT offer inclusive calls as standard and have different strengths on call packages.

Neither provider offers inclusive calls anymore, so customers looking to add a call package will need to choose from one of the following:

Call plan Includes Price per month
TalkTalk Unlimited UK calls Anytime calls to UK landlines and mobiles £12
TalkTalk International Max 1,000 landline and mobile minutes to 50 destinations £10
BT 700 minutes 700 minutes to be used any time for UK landlines or UK mobiles £7.31
BT Unlimited calls Unlimited calls (anytime) UK landlines or UK mobiles £15.67
BT Friends & Family International Lower call rates for 236 international destinations £2.11
BT International Freedom Calls to landlines in 36 countries, and lower call rates to the rest of the world £8.99

TalkTalk offer a cheaper unlimited calls plan, although BT's 400 or 700 minute plans will likely be enough for most households and are cheaper.

BT's international plan is cheaper than TalkTalk's but less generous - it only includes landlines, while TalkTalk allow calls to mobiles and home phones.


TV

Winner: BT TV offers more options while TalkTalk TV is severely limited for the time being, although content is similar.

BT TV and TalkTalk TV are only available with broadband - customers have to get a bundle deal if they want the pay TV service.

Both BT TV and TalkTalk TV operate via YouView boxes, which differ depending on which provider and package customers choose. We have a full guide to YouView TV here.

This means that the hardware for both providers is similar and both have moved towards offering content from Now TV rather than providing their own TV plans.

Overall, BT offer more content options and their partnership with Now TV allows customers to upgrade and downgrade plans, so the service is more customisable than TalkTalk's. Plus, they offer access to BT Sport which is now unavailable on TalkTalk TV.

TalkTalk are partnering with Netgem on a new TV service, although details on this are vague at the time of writing.

BT TV

BT currently offer five TV packages to customers based on Now TV content alongside their own BT Sport offer.

These are the prices for BT TV (remember these prices are on top of BT broadband):

Package Channels Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Entertainment (BT broadband customers only) 96 £17 £39.99 24 months
Big Entertainment (BT broadband customers only) 107 £27 £39.99 24 months
Sport (BT broadband customers only) 77 £16 £39.99 24 months
Big Sport (BT broadband customers only) 90 £41 £39.99 24 months
VIP (BT broadband customers only) 125 £74 £39.99 24 months

These packages can be swapped on a monthly basis if a customer wants to upgrade or downgrade, although they are still subject to a 24-month minimum term on taking a TV package (so, at least £12 per month even if they choose the most basic Entertainment plan).

Read our full guide to BT TV and the different packages on offer.

TalkTalk TV

TalkTalk scrapped their TV Boosts in 2020, essentially removing their traditional pay TV offering and moving to one based on Now TV memberships instead. As we mentioned above, this may evolve further as the deal with Netgem TV becomes clearer.

Currently, TalkTalk TV customers pay £4 each month plus £25 upfront for a basic non-recordable YouView box. This includes all Freeview channels and the HD channels available on Freeview too.

They can then add Now TV memberships at a discounted rate for 12 months:

Now TV Pass Discount on Now TV price TalkTalk TV price for 12 months
Entertainment Pass 50% £4.99
Sky Cinema Pass 50% £4.99
Sky Sports Month Pass 41% £20

The box can also be integrated with other apps such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, though these must be paid for separately.

Read more about TalkTalk TV.


Customer service

Winner: BT have a better overall customer satisfaction rating and resolve customer service complaints more satisfactorily.

Neither provider is tip-top on customer service, but TalkTalk's recent performance has been notably poor.

Ofcom's most recent Comparing Customer Service Quality report, published in May 2021, showed TalkTalk struggling in comparison to BT.

Here's a direct comparison of the two providers and their customer service metrics:

BT TalkTalk
Satisfaction with service overall 80% 77%
Satisfaction with speed of service 80% 71%
Customers with a reason to complain 23% 24%
Overall satisfaction with complaint handling 55% 47%
Complaints completely resolved on first contact 40% 31%
Complaints per 100,000 customers in 2020 50 81
Average call waiting time 3 minutes 28 seconds 1 minute 46 seconds

As we can see, BT are ahead on most metrics, although TalkTalk were quicker to answer the phone.

The number of complaints is worrying for TalkTalk and they remain one of the most complained about providers according to the latest complaint figures for Q1 2021 while BT are in line with the industry average.

Like most providers, both BT and TalkTalk have been rapped for misleading ads, with TalkTalk also receiving a rebuke from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently for scrapping their fixed price promise and misleading customers who had specifically signed up to it.

Read more about customer service in the broadband sector.


Verdict: Is BT or TalkTalk better?

Overall winner: BT offer faster broadband with better extras and superior hardware, although TalkTalk is still the cheapest option for budget customers.

TalkTalk offer a clear, budget-friendly pricing structure which provides better value than BT's standard or fibre broadband options.

While both companies have struggled with customer service in recent years, there are signs of improvement on both sides, although BT are arguably improving a little more rapidly.

BT TV has a better selection of packages and access to BT Sport while TalkTalk TV at the moment is a bit of a let-down. On the other hand, TalkTalk unlimited calls are cheaper for customers who need those services.

It depends, all told, whether customers are searching for a budget broadband service or one with more premium extras. BT easily beat TalkTalk when it comes to extras, and their routers are more advanced.

Now that TalkTalk have entered the ultrafast broadband market, there are fewer differences between these two than they used to be, but BT still remain ahead on some crucial points.

Broadband services available depend on location. Enter your postcode and compare the best broadband deals available to you.

Comments

Neil Aper
26 October 2021

TalkTalk are partnering with Netgem on a new TV service, although details on this are vague at the time of writing. But it is possible to foresee what might be offered if we consult the Netgem.tv website: https://www.netgem.co.uk/ Great TV service, following the user reviews at https://www.trustpilot.com/review/netgem.tv!

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