A good network for solo SIM and smartphone buyers, but a great one if you want to keep a family connected

Pros
Good speeds, reliability and wide coverage
Great for families
Discounts for BT Broadband customers
Cons
No Wi-Fi calling
Need to pay extra for top speeds

Having launched BT Mobile in 2015 and purchased EE in the very same year, BT has been good to its word, running both services with different tariffs and support teams and a distinct set of features. BT Mobile piggybacks on EE’s network but offers slightly lower prices, particularly if you’re an existing BT Broadband customer, in which case a £5 discount kicks in. Better still, there are further savings to be had if you’re looking to move your whole household to the network.

BT Mobile review: What do you get?

Low prices and family features are very much BT Mobile’s selling point, with a range of SIM-only deals that undercut the other networks on calls and data. You can buy a smartphone on contract, including the iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9, Google Pixel 2 and Nokia 3, but while the pricing is competitive, the range isn’t that extensive. You’re currently limited to a choice of 18 handsets, with all but three from Apple or Samsung.

As they are, these plans are priced aggressively, particularly when you factor in regular sales and shifting monthly discounts. At the time of writing, the 6GB Perfect All Rounder plan is cheaper than EE’s 1GB tariff, while the price matches Three’s 4GB tariff and O2’s 2GB option. If you need more data, BT Mobile’s High Data Plan sees stiffer competition from EE’s 20GB plan and Three’s 30GB tariff, which hover at around the same £20 to £25 price point, but it’s still a good buy.

BT Mobile saves its best prices, however, for the brand’s existing broadband customers. If you take your ADSL or Fibre services from BT you get a discount of £5 on every tariff, making them some of the cheapest deals per gigabyte in town. At the time of writing, that means 20GB for £20 or 15GB for £18, undercutting or matching Three and EE’s comparable deals and leaving O2 and Vodafone behind.

Tariffs compared

Monthly fee (1x SIM) Monthly fee (BT Broadband customer) Data Texts/Minutes BT WiFi Extras
Great Value Starter Plan £12.50 £7.50 500MB Unlimited Unlimited N/A
The Essential Plan £17 (currently £15) £12 (currently £10) 3GB Unlimited Unlimited N/A
The Perfect All Rounder Plan £22 (currently £18) £17 (currently £13) 6GB Unlimited Unlimited Free BT Sport
The High Data Plan £27 (currently £23) £22 (currently £18) 15GB Unlimited Unlimited Free BT Sport
The Ultimate Sim Plan £27 (currently £25) £22 (currently £20) 15GB (currently 20GB) Unlimited Unlimited Free BT Sport

 

BT Mobile review: Family Plans

That applies if you’re just buying one SIM, but if you’re taking one for you, one for your spouse or partner and one for the kids, BT’s Family Plans make even more sense. They’re available on all but the cheapest Great Value Starter Plan, and you can take up to five SIMs per plan for some whacking discounts, bringing the price of, say, the 15GB High Data Plan to just £15.50 per phone across four phones. Each SIM has its own allowances, so you don’t need to worry about one family member sucking up the month’s allowance, and the bill payer can control spending caps for each SIM. You can see the maximum monthly saving per plan in the table below.

Family Plans compared

2x SIM 3x SIM 4x SIM 5x SIM
Maximum Monthly Saving
Essential Plan £23 £30 £36 £41 £44
The Perfect All Rounder Plan £30 £40 £48 £55 £55
The High Data Plan £38 £51 £62 £72 £63
The Ultimate Sim Plan £40 £53 £64 £74 £61

It’s a flexible way of working, too. While the primary plan has to have a minimum 12 month contract, the additional SIMS only have 30-day terms. Not everyone has to have the same plan, and you can change the make-up at a month’s notice. You can even change the primary plan without extending the length of the contract, though you can only downgrade a plan once in a 12-month contract. With just the one bill and primary plan to deal with, it’s a lot easier to track and control your family’s mobile spending.

BT Mobile review: Coverage and Connection Speeds

BT Mobile is a virtual network running on EE’s network, recently improved thanks to further investment from BT. Right now it’s arguably the strongest network in the UK, with EE topping RootMetrics’ UK-wide performance tables for the second half of 2017 on speed, reliability, data connectivity, calls and texts, not to mention overall. Coverage is extremely good as well, with Fast or Faster ratings in the majority of areas, and just a few slow spots spread across Wales, rural Scotland and the South West and East coasts of England. Rollout of the Voice over LTE network means you can get voice calls in most locations across the UK, while access to 4G services is more widespread than with any other service. If you’re looking for reliable, high-speed data connectivity everywhere you go, BT Mobile is one of your best bets.

It’s worth noting, however, that you won’t get the absolute highest speeds on the basic service. Where all EE customers get access to EE’s top-speed 60Mbits/sec 4G services, BT restricts it to specific high-end plans or to those willing to pay £4 a month extra for the Speed addon. Given that you won’t actually get downstream connection speeds of over 30Mbits/sec in most areas – and that, for most purposes, 30Mbits/sec is fast enough – this isn’t a major issue. However, if you live somewhere with widespread access to the 60Mbits/sec 4G+ network and really love fast downloads, then you might want to factor this in to your decision.

BT Mobile review: Roaming

Roaming charges within the EU are now a thing of the past, and like all UK providers, BT Mobile allows you to use your calls, texts and data allowances for free in the 47 European destinations covered by its Roam Like Home tariff (though surcharges apply when you use over 15GB in a single monthly billing cycle). Outside your allowance, you’re looking at 29.1p and 35p per minute making calls, 10p to 12p per message and 8.3p to 10p per MB, depending on your location.

Roaming gets a whole lot more expensive outside the EU, with prices reaching £1.40 to make a call, £1.25 to receive a call, 40p per text and a whopping £5 per MB in many territories, including the US, Thailand and Australia. You can cut costs with a roaming data addon, but that still costs £15 for just 100MB of data. These costs aren’t unusual among UK networks, with EE charging much the same, but Three and Giff-Gaff are significantly cheaper. if you’re a frequent traveller, you may want to look at them instead.

BT Mobile review: Other services and spending caps

Although it runs on EE’s network, BT Mobile doesn’t offer EE’s Wi-Fi calling feature, where you can make and take calls over Wi-Fi where you can’t get a decent mobile signal. Even on EE this only works – and comes preinstalled – on specific phones, so it’s probably not a deal breaker. To compensate, BT Mobile gives you free access to BT’s network of five million free UK Wi-Fi hotspots, with another 13 million abroad. This could give you better high-speed access in some locations – and also help you get away with a lower monthly data allowance.

BT Mobile doesn’t have a monthly spending cap by default, though one kicks in if you run up data charges of more than £35 while abroad. You can set your own cap, but the minimum level is £5 over your normal monthly allowance, so there’s no way to ensure your monthly spend stops the minute you go over. Again, this isn’t unusual, but it’s worth setting a cap on any Family Plan SIMs then watching for the text notifications rolling in. The Family Plans do a solid job of keeping the primary account holder informed.

Tethering, once a pricey optional extra, is now supported by most UK networks on all but their most basic tariffs. BT Mobile is no exception, and you can connect your laptop or tablet to your smartphone and surf away, provided you don’t burn through your data allowance.

BT Mobile review: Verdict

BT Mobile is a good-value option if you’re just looking for a monthly contract on one phone, particularly with the £5 discount for existing BT Broadband customers. It’s a shame that maximum performance isn’t up there with EE’s without the optional Speed addon, but if you’re not in a location with 30 to 60Mbits/sec connectivity, you’re not splashing out on bandwidth you can’t use. Yet it’s BT’s Family Plans that really up the ante, covering everyone in the household at prices that won’t have you weeping when the bill comes through. Throw in excellent coverage and connectivity, and BT Mobile is the best network out there for families.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here