BT, as we all know, is the UK’s number one provider of broadband services. As the Internet started to take off, BT’s heritage as the national telecommunications supplier meant it naturally became the supplier of choice for most businesses and households getting online.
That BT has stayed at the top is quite an achievement. It is almost four decades since deregulation started in 1984, and BT remains the leading provider of broadband in the UK, with just over one third of the total UK market, according to figures from Ofcom. This is not due to a lack of competition. While BT had no real competitors back in 1984, it now has hundreds operating at a national and regional level, providing specialist or focused services and, in many cases, lower prices. Arguably, the broadband market is more competitive than ever.
However, BT must have been doing something right to have maintained market leadership over this extended period. But how good are its services really?Back to top
BT broadband services
Unquestionably, BT offers the most comprehensive choice of services, from basic ADSL2+ to ultra-fast fibre to the premises (FTTP), and everything in between. BT’s ‘Essential’ services will give you up to 17Mbps download speeds, while ‘Superfast’ FTTC services will offer up to 76Mbps, and ‘Ultrafast’ options that provide – depending on the package – between 150 and 300Mbps will only be available in a few cities and towns at present; although the rollout is continuing at a healthy pace, so these will become options for more areas quite soon.
With BT, you can expect to get as much as 80% of the theoretical download speed. No broadband speed is every guaranteed though, and in areas where there is a high density of users, you may find performance won’t always be at this level at peak times. To this extent, BT is a victim of its own success. But, to be honest, experiences of poor performance are rare. BT has a lot of capacity and its network is designed to cope when demand spikes.Back to top
Most BT broadband deals come with a BT Smart Hub router. Faster options come with more advanced devices that will support faster speeds and more users. Either way, what you get will be of good quality and you can expect it to be reliable.
BT’s Smart Hub and other devices will support all kinds of connections comfortably. As well as a broadband input, the basic unit has four Ethernet ports that you can connect with other devices, such as a voicemail receiver, IP camera or Powerline adapter. You could also connect your PC or gaming console directly using one of these ports.
Of course, most of the time, you will connect devices to broadband using Wi-Fi, and while the current BT Smart Hub supports the 802.11ac (aka Wi-Fi 5) standard, there is sure be a version offering 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) support soon enough. For smaller offices, there is not too much difference between the two; Wi-Fi 6 is a little faster, but it’s main benefit it that it will support more consistent connections for all users in high density situations. In other words, if you have a lot of Wi-Fi users all trying to connect at the same time (such as when you are holding a meeting or event), there will be no drop-off in performance.
The BT Smart Hub also has a USB port, and, on some packages, this is used to connect to a small 4G back-up device that will click in automatically, should your main broadband line go down for any reason. This is a nice added feature and works well in practice.
BT packages that include IP voice also ship with a VoIP handset a receiver. Like the router and 4G kit, this is of good quality and reliable in operation.Back to top
Added BT extras
As mentioned already, you can get BT packages that come with a voice line and VoIP handset included, and also 4G backup. In addition, some offer guest Wi-Fi capability (excellent if you run a business that is open to the public like a café or a retail outlet) and provide free Wi-Fi access at more than five million BT hotspots for when you are on the move.
With some packages you also get access to a mobile app through which you can make and receive calls on your broadband account. There are some attractive mobile packages available bundled with BT broadband services too. In addition, with BT’s Halo service, you get access to 24/7 UK-based technical support. Some packages also come with a static IP address, which you will need to run web services and will find useful for more secure remote connections.Back to top
Voice services – for business and the home
You would expect BT to be good at voice services, but it is really just a standard part of the broadband package now. All BT options come with a voice connection and most come with a handset included. If you want to extend your VoIP package to more than one handset – as you well might if you are a small business – this is easily done by adding handsets and a voice plan. A third-party reseller will be able to help set this up if you are not confident doing it yourself.Back to top
BT Home broadband and TV packages
BT has strong competition in this area, but it’s been catching up and there are some good packages available now on BT, particularly for sports fans. BT Sport TV packages will give you access to a good selection for English Premier League football matches and comprehensive coverage of the English Rugby Union Premiership contest. Customers can also make use of the BT Sport app on their mobiles, and with free connection via five million hotspots, it is easy to take advantage of this added extra.Back to top
BT generally has a good reputation when it comes to service and support; it’s part of what sets BT apart from its competitors. As mentioned earlier, with the Halo service options you get 24-hour access to technical experts. Halo also includes an annual on-site check to ensure everything is working correctly and whether improvements can be made.Back to top
BT does offer an exceptionally good overall package when you take everything into account, and all BT deals comes with extras, so you need to consider that when making any price comparisons.
Due to the close watch that Ofcom keeps on it, BT can’t get too competitive in terms of its pricing. As BT was the incumbent UK supplier back in the 1980s, the company has always been seen to have an advantage and competitors are quick to draw attention to any apparently aggressive tactics the company might employ. The result is usually a series of headlines in national and business media that don’t help BT’s share price.
As a consequence of this attention, BT does not tend to focus too much on price; it will never (or very rarely) be the cheapest option available to most businesses and consumers. Instead, it places more emphasis on the combination of speed, reliability and additional services it offers and the excellent value that these packages represent.Back to top
A name you can trust
At the end of the day, a lot of businesses and consumers have almost certainly stuck with BT because it is a name that they trust. The level of service that BT has offered over the years – and continues to provide – has certainly helped the company to retain a loyal customer base. That being said, as TV services have become a more critical part of the overall package that a broadband provider offers, it has faced stiffer competition in the consumer market. Businesses and consumers are also now much more aware of the importance of broadband, and reliability and trust are important factors for decision-makers.Back to top
For many businesses and homes, BT continues to the best choice of broadband provider. There is no single reason for this, it is simply down to the combination of speed and service options that BT provides and the reach that it has in the UK. Wherever you are located, BT can probably offer you a choice of connections.
BT’s packages are attractive and offer good overall value. In fact, they are hard to beat unless you have fairly specific preferences or needs. BT also has a more-than-decent track record in servicing and supporting customers. In short, it’s a common-sense, low-risk choice and one that customers can still rely on. You will get good performance most of the time and if anything does go wrong, BT has the capability to get it sorted quickly.Back to top