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BT 4G Coverage and Network Review

15th August 2018

BT Network Coverage

BT uses EE's 4G network (which it now also owns), so you can look at that to see its level of coverage. That's a good thing, as EE has 4G available in thousands of towns, cities and villages and is currently the market leader.

EE – and by extension BT - has over 99% UK population coverage, so there's almost nowhere you won't get 4G. The network also has around 90% of the UK geographically covered.

Those are some impressive stats, but there’s more to a network than its coverage and there are reasons you might want to choose BT over EE, or any other network, as well as some reasons you might want to think twice.

Read on for a full rundown and review of BT Mobile, including the areas where it excels and those where there’s room for improvement.

Summary

Pros

Cons

High speeds

No Pay As You Go plans

Allows tethering

No inclusive roaming beyond the EU

Good 4G coverage

No unlimited data plans

Our Rating

Coverage

BT Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

> 99%

3G

98%

2G

99%


BT Mobile uses the same core network as EE, giving it excellent coverage across the UK with 99, 98 and 99 per cent 4G, 3G and 2G coverage respectively. That puts it in joint first place with EE when it comes to coverage, but you also benefit from access to BT's WiFi hotspots across the UK.

Use BT’s coverage checker above to find out more about BT coverage in your area, including signal strengths and details on both indoor and outdoor coverage.

4G Network Coverage Comparison

Network

4G Coverage by population

BT Mobile (EE Network)

> 99%

Vodafone

98%

O2

99%

Three

99.8%

As you can see in the coverage comparison above, BT is ahead of rivals, but not by much, as Three, Vodafone and O2 all have almost as much 4G population coverage.

Locations with 4G coverage include but are not limited to the following cities:

Aberdeen, Armagh, Bangor, Bath, Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Chester, Chichester, Coventry, Derby, Derry, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Ely, Exeter,  Glasgow, Gloucester, Hereford, Inverness, Kingston upon Hull, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Newport, Newry, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Peterlee, Perth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Ripon, Sheffield, Southampton, St Albans, St Asaph, St David’s, Salford, Salisbury, Stirling, Stoke, Sunderland, Swansea, Truro, Wakefield, Wells, City of Westminster, Winchester, Wolverhampton Worcester and York.

Recent locations to benefit from EE (and by extension BT) 4G include Astley Bridge and parts of Scotland, Northumberland and North Yorkshire.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

BT mostly uses standard 4G, which is roughly 5 times faster than a standard 3G network. However, it also has an Extra Speed service as an optional extra, which reaches speeds of up to 60Mbit/sec.

OpenSignal – Mobile Networks Update, April 2018

Network

4G download speeds

4G latency (ms)

BT Mobile (EE Network)

29.02Mbps

40.35ms

Three

22.55Mbps

47.23ms

Vodafone

20.07Mbps

40.6ms

O2

15.16Mbps

42.84ms

According to an OpenSignal report from April 2018, EE’s average 4G download speed is 29.02Mbps. BT’s isn’t part of the report, but it’s likely to be similar to EE’s, meaning it’s probably higher than any major rival.

EE’s average latency meanwhile is 40.35ms. That’s the measure of how long the network takes to respond to a request, so a lower number is better here, and EE (and likely by extension BT) is once again in the lead.

Speedtest – Mobile Speedtest Data, Q3-Q4 2017

Network

Download/upload speeds

BT Mobile (EE Network)

28.80/9.29Mbps

Vodafone

17.26/8.16Mbps

Three

14.58/7.35Mbps

O2

14.11/7.13Mbps

In a Speedtest report from 2017 EE (and therefore likely BT) was again found to be the fastest, with average download speeds of 28.80Mbps and average upload speeds of 9.29Mbps.

BT Mobile Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

800MHz

Band 20

4G

1800MHz

Band 3

2G & 4G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G & 4G

2600MHz

Band 7

4G

BT Mobile uses the 800MHz band, 1800MHz band, 2100MHz band and 2600MHz band for 4G. The 800MHz band is long range, making it a great fit for countryside locations, but it can also penetrate walls, for good indoor coverage.

The 2600MHz band on the other hand is shorter range but higher capacity, which means it can deal well with congested areas like inner cities. The 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands are somewhere in the middle.

For more in depth information, check out our 4G frequencies guide.

Planned improvements

BT through EE is doing various improvement work, including upgrading its service in Powys and installing hundreds of new mobile sites in rural Scotland.

Traffic management

BT Mobile doesn’t have any speed restrictions, no matter how much you upload or download, even at peak hours. BT Mobile also won’t slow down peer to peer file-sharing, so you’re free to use the network however and whenever you want without being slowed.

Plans

BT Mobile offers a range of Pay Monthly and SIM Only Plans, which are detailed below. Note that they all include free use of BT’s Wi-Fi hotspots, and many of them support Family SIM, which lets you add additional SIM cards to the contract at a reduced price, each with its own data, and each additional one only being tied into a 30-day contract.

All of BT’s plans come with 4G at no extra cost.

BT Mobile Pay Monthly Plans

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Plans Available

Max Data

30GB

40GB

Contract lengths

24 months

12 months

EU Roaming

Global Roaming

Tethering

VoLTE

WiFi Calling

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

Free BT Sport on mobile

✔* ✔*

 

View deals

View deals

* On plans with 6GB data and higher

BT Mobile’s Pay Monthly plans are all 24 months long and all allow you to use your data allowance towards tethering. You can get up to 30GB of monthly data with Pay Monthly plans.

BT’s SIM Only plans are all 12 months long and come with up to 40GB of monthly data. As with Pay Monthly, you can use any or all of that data for tethering.

Highlights of BT Mobile’s plans include free access to BT Sport on Pay Monthly plans with 6GB of data or more, and discounts if you’re a BT Broadband customer. There are also extras, detailed below, however data limits are middling.

BT also doesn’t offer any Data Only plans currently, but your normal BT SIM card should work in tablets.

Pay As You Go

BT Mobile doesn’t currently offer any Pay As You Go plans.

BT Extra Speed

BT's Extra Speed service is available as an optional add-on, doubling 4G speeds to up to 60Mbps. It's available in many of the same places as standard 4G. This is the equivalent of EE’s double speed service and isn’t as fast as EE’s 4G+.

Tethering

BT Mobile lets you use as much of your monthly data allowance as you want for tethering, so you can get tablets, laptops and other devices online by sharing your phone’s network connection. The only limit is your data allowance.

WiFi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling refers to the act of calling and texting over a Wi-Fi network, while using your normal number, dialler and SMS app, so it’s completely seamless. BT Mobile offers this to all new and existing customers, but currently you need an iPhone 5S or later, or a select Android handset, including the Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, Huawei P20 Lite and others, bought from BT Mobile, to take advantage of it.

VoLTE

VoLTE stands for Voice over LTE (sometimes called 4G Calling) and lets you make and receive calls over 4G, so you’ll be able to stay in touch in places that don’t have a 2G or 3G signal. BT Mobile offers this to all customers, but at the moment it only works on the iPhone 6 or later, or a small number of Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, Huawei P Smart and others, bought from BT Mobile.

Roaming Destinations

BT Mobile lets you use your full allowance of minutes, texts and data at no extra cost in 47 European destinations. These are as follows:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (Incl. Azores & Madeira), Reunion, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Vatican City.

Customer service

While hard to judge conclusively, two recent reports suggest that BT Mobile’s customer service may leave something to be desired.

In the Which? H1 2017 UK Mobile Network Survey, which polled 4,026 members of the public, BT Mobile was rated 8th overall, with a customer score of 63% and a customer service rating of 2 stars (out of 5). It additionally got 3 stars for ease/speed of contacting and value for money, and 2 stars for incentives.

Meanwhile, in an Ofcom complaints report from Q3 2017, BT Mobile was found to have got 9 complaints for every 100,000 customers. That might not sound like many, but only Vodafone performed worse, with 10 complaints per 100,000, while the industry average is just 5.

Conclusion

By leveraging the power of EE’s infrastructure BT has one of the fastest 4G networks around – especially if you opt for its Extra Speed service. But it’s also got benefits of its own, such as free access to BT’s extensive network of Wi-Fi hotspots.

Its offerings feel slightly limited, as there’s no Pay As You Go and no data SIMs. BT also isn’t as competitive for roaming as some rivals, and its customer service record doesn’t look great, but if you’re happy to have a contract and will mostly be using your phone in the UK it’s a strong option.

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