BT Buyers Guide
Can I get BT Broadband?
BT's standard broadband services are available at all UK telephone exchanges (excluding those in Hull) so can be accessed in all but the remotest of rural areas
BT's fibre-optic service, BT Infinity, is available to more than 85% of UK homes — more than 25 million premises — with BT continuing the roll out to more and more areas every month. BT Infinity is based on fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology meaning that both your telephone exchange and your street cabinet need to have been upgraded to support fibre before you can sign up to the service. Urban and central areas tend to be activated first. You can check to see if BT Infinity is available in your area with our postcode checker.
Does BT Broadband have a technical advantage or faster installation time?
BT Broadband is provided by BT Retail, which is a separate company from those that administer telephone exchanges, street cabinets and phonelines. As a result, there is no technical advantage over any other provider reselling BT Wholesale Connect; they have to wait in the same queues for Openreach installation or home visit engineers and use the same systems of contact as any other reseller.
BT Broadband are just one of many consumer broadband service providers using BT Wholesale Connect technology. In many areas competiting broadband providers have installed their own equipment in telephone exchanges and may even be able to beat BT's standard broadband speeds.
As British Telecom, BT provided the nationalised telecoms service for the whole of the UK, controlling all telephone exchanges (except those in Hull). Since then British Telecom were split into three companies; BT Wholesale, who sell telecommunications services to phone and broadband suppliers, Openreach, who maintain the technical aspects of the BT infrastructure including phone lines, exchanges and street cabinets; and BT Retail, who sell BT phone and broadband products to consumers. This separation was enforced by the Competition Commission to ensure that BT did not have a monopoly or unfair advantage over other telecommunications companies.
What broadband options are available?
BT provide a wide range of packages catering to different speeds, download restrictions, and associated extras including TV options.
BT also allow you to build your own package on their site by choosing from a range of broadband speeds:
- BT standard broadband - up to 17Mb download and up to 1Mb upload speed, limited to up to 8Mb down and up to 0.75Mb up in some rural areas
- BT Infinity 1 fibre-optic broadband - up to 52Mb download speed and up to 9.5Mb upload speed
- BT Infinity 2 fibre-optic broadband - up to 76Mb download speed and up to 19Mb upload speed
Whether you can enjoy BT's fastest speeds depends on factors like whether your exchange and street cabinet have been upgraded to the latest technology, and how much copper telephone cable there is between your home and the exchange (or the street cabinet for BT Infinity).
For the standard broadband and Infinity 1 packages you can choose whether to have unlimited usage, allowing you to use as much Internet as you like each month, or whether you will pay less and have a download limit. There are a range of limits available with smaller limits usually costing less, although special offers and promotions may apply to make unlimited options more affordable. Infinity 2 is unlimited.
All packages come with free unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines, but this is again flexible, allowing you to extend the option to unlimited anytime calls.
What TV options are available?
You can also combine your broadband and phone service with a TV service by adding BT TV - BT's digital television service - to your package.
BT TV can only be taken with a BT broadband subscription as it uses your connection to stream content which is not available on Freeview. Speeds of 5Mb or more are required to view high definition content, 2Mb or more for standard definition. If your connection falls short of this minimum you won't be able to sign up.
Customers can choose between:
- BT TV Starter - 80 Freeview channels (including 12 in HD), On Demand, Catch up TV, BT Sport
- BT TV Unlimited - 80 Freeview channels (including 12 in HD), On Demand, Catch up TV, BT Sport, 28 premium channels and TV on the Go
- BT TV Total Entertainent - 80 Freeview channels (including 12 in HD), On Demand, Catch up TV, BT Sport, 50 premium channels and TV on the Go
All BT TV packages come with up to 80 Freeview TV and radio channels, plus access to 7 day catch up TV and on-demand shows. The YouView powered set top box also gives you high definition versions of the 4 main terrestrial TV channels via Freeview HD and allows you to pause and rewind live TV or record your favourite shows for later. You can also access a large library of on demand TV shows, music videos and more, or pay per view blockbuster films.
BT TV's streamed channels and on-demand films and TV shows do not count towards your broadband usage allowance. Viewing rival services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or NOW TV will count towards any usage limit you might have on your BT Broadband service, so bear this in mind when deciding between limited or unlimited packages.
Which package should I choose?
It is worth working out what your download needs are in advance as there is no need for you for to pay more than you have to, such as paying for extra bandwidth that you won't need.
At speeds of up to 52Mb, the BT Infinity 1 package offers the fastest potential speeds for basic fibre broadband in the UK (at launch time, at least — it's likely that other providers will upgrade their basic services in due course). This is fast enough for virtually all online activities, including watching BT Sport in Ultra HD, and may now be sufficient for those customers who would have previously been considering the faster Infinity 2 connection.
BT Infinity packages will help prevent slowdown in households with many heavy Internet users, such as student households or those with large families. However, if you're close enough to the telephone exchange, BT Broadband's speeds of up to 17Mb may still be fast enough, allowing you to stream live television or communicate over Skype without encountering problems. You might benefit from faster internet speeds if you do a lot of online gaming, regularly download a lot of large files or stream large amounts TV and films, especially in larger households where more than one person might be doing these things at any one time.
When considering your usage limit, it is worth asking yourself what you use the Internet for, and how often you use it. Those who use the Internet regularly for downloading files, gaming or watching a lot of streaming video (outside of the unmetered BT TV service) will hit a usage limit faster than those who only use the Internet for email, websites and social media, or go online less often. If you can find out your current monthly usage, it will provide a useful estimate for what limit you might need. There is no need to pay for capacity you will not use, but it can also provide peace-of-mind not to worry about if a YouTube video might take you over your limit.
Points to consider before you choose
- How many people will be using your broadband connection?
- Are you a heavy downloader, or do you regularly play online games?
- Will you only watch streamed TV and films on unmetered BT TV or will you also use rival services like Netflix or NOW TV?
- How heavy is your Internet usage and how often do you use it?
- Would the expense of the faster speed or larger download capacity be worth it for you?
Compare all BT Broadband packages
I already have Infinity 1, do I automatically get the new, faster speed?
Existing Infinity 1 customers will not be upgraded automatically to the faster speeds, and will continue on their current up to 38Mb service.
You can upgrade by taking out a new contract, but unless you're already getting speeds of 38Mb, or thereabouts, it may not be worth it. For many users the internet speeds they get are limited by physical factors such as their distance from the street cabinet, rather than the speed limits of their chosen broadband service. Thus, upgraading to a faster service will not automatically mean faster internet.
What do I get when I sign-up?
It's always good to know upfront what you'll get when signing up with an ISP so you know what you can enjoy for free, or to budget for any extras you may want.
- BT Home Hub router - Standard BT Broadband customers will receive a free BT Home Hub 4 802.11n wireless router for their connections, while Infinity customers get the enhanced Smart Hub which is supercharged for fibre with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and uses smart techology to get faster Wi-Fi connections to more rooms in your home that any other major broadband providers' hubs. These routers use dual-band technology to reduce wireless interference and come with an easy online set-up.
- BT Cloud storage - BT Broadband comes with access to BT Cloud, which allows you to store your files online. This enables you to have a back-up of important documents on your devices so that you do not lose them if something happens to that device. You can also access BT Cloud from anywhere if you have an account, which makes it easy to transfer and share files. The unlimited packages come with either 100GB or a massive 500GB, depending on which you choose. Cloud storage is an optional extra on the limited packages.
- Internet security - All of BT's unlimited broadband packages come bundled with BT NetProtect Plus online security with McAfee. Up to 7 PCs and Macs can be protected through firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and site rating systems. The cheaper BT Broadband deals with limited data allowances can still get BT NetProtect Plus for a small extra cost. BT Family Protection is also available to restrict and monitor children’s internet usage, including blocking access to social media and setting time limits.
- SmartTalk - BT provide a SmartTalk app that BT Broadband users can use. This allows you to use up to 5 smartphones for landline calls through your router, potentially saving a lot of money on expensive mobile calls, and even allowing you to use your landline while abroad with a wi-fi connection. No other provider offers this option.
- BT Sport - You don’t have to be a BT TV subscriber to have access to BT Sport. If you are a BT Broadband customer then you can use the BT Sport app or the online player to access BT Sport Lite for free or you can pay £6 extra per month for the BT Sport Pack and the exclusive sports coverage they provide, including live UEFA football, 38 Barclays Premier League matches and all Aviva Premiership Rugby matches. You can also add BT Sport to your existing Sky TV service for only £6 per month.
What are the benefits of BT Broadband?
The benefits offered by an ISP may be what seals the deal in your decision to buy a package from them.
- Very fast basic fibre - BT's cheapest Infinity 1 fibre cabinets offer download speeds of up to 52Mb while most competitors limit basic fibre to only up to 38Mb. If you're close enough to your street cabinet to get the boost then the extra 14Mb could make a significant difference.
- Wi-fi access points - All BT Broadband customers benefit from free unlimited broadband access even when not at home through free access to BT Wi-fi (formerly BT FON/BT Openzone), the world’s largest wi-fi network with over 5 million wi-fi hotspots across the UK. This lets you access the internet without the restrictions of mobile broadband from coffee shops, airports, high streets, stations, and many more places - including international hotspots.
- Free technical support - BT Broadband provide many support options for when things go wrong. Customers can call their helpline for free from their landlines at any time of day, and access hundreds of free online guides complete with videos. BT Broadband also maintain a social media presence through forums, Twitter and YouTube, helping you solve any problems that may occur.
- Free installation for BT Infinity 2 - BT Infinity 2 customers can get their fibre broadband installed at no extra cost.
- Available in rural areas - BT offer the same prices at all telephone exchanges, making BT a good choice for those living in rural and remote areas where choices may be limited. In areas where Virgin cable TV isn't available, BT TV may be a good alternative to Sky.
- Super Hub for BT Infinity - Supercharged for fibre with the very latest 802.11ac advanced wireless networking technology, BT claims their smart techology makes the Smart Hub better than any major broadband provider's latest hub at getting faster connections into more rooms of your home.
- BT Sport Pack - If you're a sports fan and intend to sign up for BT Sport in order to see UEFA Championship, Premiere League Football, FA Cup, Rugby etc matches, it can be very attractive to switch to BT TV and get these channels for free, or to switch to BT Broadband and get them through the app or your existing Sky TV package for only £6 per month.
- No satellite dish needed for TV - If you don't want or aren't able to install a satellite dish for your home, BT TV is available using your standard Freeview aerial and BT broadband connection.
What are the drawbacks of BT Broadband?
Let's face it, not everything can be perfect, and even the best deals may have a downside.
- Costs - BT Broadband is rarely the cheapest option for all the services they provide, however this is made up for by BT providing a wider range of included extras than many other providers.
- Must take BT phone and line rental - BT Broadband is only offered bundled with BT phone services, you can't take your line rental or call plan from someone else, or sign up with broadband from BT without having a phoneline. BT line rental tends to be priced higher than many other providers.
- No short contracts - BT’s contracts are for 12 months, which requires a greater degree of commitment and less flexibility than other providers that offer shorter contracts. Those looking for one month contracts may be better off looking elsewhere. However, as BT Broadband is available at all BT telephone exchanges, you're unlikely to find yourself moving home to an area with no BT Broadband service at all, which can happen with some providers.
- Smart Hub only standard on Infinity - If you want the lastest and greatest router technology, capable of getting faster connections into the 'dead spots' in your home, you only get the BT Smart Hub inclusive with BT Infinity. If you're a standard broadband customer then you get the previous generation BT Home Hub 4 or you need to pay an extra £50 to get the Smart Hub.
- Complaint levels - The communications regulator Ofcom keeps track of the customer complaint levels of for broadband and TV services. The Ofcom complaint figures for late 2015 show that while BT had the third lowest level of complaints among the major broadband provders, it was still well above the industry average. It also the highest level of complaints for pay TV, nearly four times the industry average.