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Review of BT Broadband Basic

Last Updated: 21 August 2005

I have recently been helping a number of people upgrade from dial-up to broadband in the local area. Some of these have asked me for recommendations, and those upgrades have gone very smoothly; unfortunately one had registered with BT before ADSL was enabled at their exchange and was drawn into pre-ordering their BT Broadband Basic package.

The experiences so far with trying to get BT Broadband Basic working for this person have not been good, which has prompted me to write this review of the package so that hopefully other people are not drawn into the same trap.

BT Broadband Basic has been around since March 2004 from what I can tell, and seems to be BT trying to cut as many corners as possible to offer the most basic ISP package I have ever seen. They then feel it is right to charge the same as other providers who offer much more.

BT Broadband Basic Offering...

The offering seems to be:

Access to the internet for browsing the web

And that's it!

(Well, that was it, but things have now changed a little)

So What's The Problem?

On the surface of it, this may be fine for someone who has never used the internet before, or someone who only has a Hotmail or other browser-based email account.

The problem is that the people I am upgrading have all been using the internet for a few years through dial-up, and so have been using Outlook Express for their email, allowing them to write email offline and only connect to browse the web and actually send/receive email. In this way they don't tie up their phone line unnecessarily, and for those on pay-as-you-go, they keep their costs down.

BT Broadband Basic offers no outbound email server. Yes, that's right, BT Broadband Basic does not allow you to send email via an outbound SMTP server; something I at least had taken for granted with all ISPs that I've ever used. - Luckily this has now changed

But Surely BT Broadband Basic Is Cheaper?

No!

BT Broadband Basic costs the same as much fuller packages from companies like Wanadoo, with ISPs like Force9 giving you much more for even less. At the time of writing, BT Broadband Basic costs 17.99pcm (for a 512K connection), as does Wanadoo (for a 2MB connection), with Force9 costing just 14.99pcm (for a 2MB connection, and now including free modem and setup).

So How Does a BT Broadband Basic Customer Send Email?

The BT Broadband Basic website basically says you have two options - either use a web based email service to send email, such as BT Yahoo!, or pay an extra 1.50pcm to have access to an outbound SMTP server. So for the same service as Force9 are offering (at 4x the speed), you have to pay 4.50 extra every month. To get a similar package to Force9, you need to buy BT Broadband at 24.99pcm - 10 more every month!

Is There Any Way Around It?

Simply, don't signup to BT Broadband Basic, but if it's already too late, there are a number of options to try.

  1. Set mail.btopenworld.com as your outbound mail server anyway. One thing I have found is that sometimes, this mail server lets you send mail anyway. This may be down to the IP address you receive when connecting to broadband; once outbound email is working, it seems to stay working until you disconnect.
  2. A less annoying option, find a free email host that allows you to send outbound email even when connected through another ISP (most email packages like Outlook Express allow you to set outbound server authentication options).
  3. Explain to BT that the lack of outbound email server is a very strong technical reason to move to another provider - ask them for your MAC code and talk to a new provider about transferring your broadband connection to them. BT will not allow you to get out of your contract within 12 months unless you have a good "technical reason" why they should let you go.

This last option is probably the best if you can convince BT about this "technical reason" for dumping BT Broadband Basic and moving to another provider.

Important: If you do this, make sure you don't just try and cancel BT Broadband Basic and then signup with a new provider as you will be without broadband for a few days. Make sure you get your MAC code which will allow you to transfer your billing to another provider, and so not interrupting your broadband service for more than a couple of hours while the transfer happens.

Update (23-Apr-05)

One other problem that has come up recently with the use of BT Broadband Basic is that it seems to have big problems downloading content from the Sainsburys To You website. Having seen the problem in action on various computers, I have tried the same web pages connected through different ISPs to prove that the problem only occurred on BT. In theory this should be another "technical reason" to move away from BT and onto another provider.

Update (21-Aug-05)

Following on from this review and the subsequent update in April, BT have seen the error of their ways and begun to allow users to send and receive email via Outlook Express or their email client of choice as part of their Broadband Basic package.

In addition they have given you the ability to use your own From address if you already have an email account; this still isn't as simple to set up as other ISPs as you do need to authenticate with their SMTP mail server using a BT Yahoo! email account, but it's much better than it was.

So if you're stuck with the BT Broadband Basic package, at least you'll be able to use it for the basics, but it's still worth looking into moving as soon as your 12 months are up, to both save money, and get yourself a less restrictive setup - Force 9 are currently charging 14.99 for exactly the same limits (i.e. 2MB bandwidth and 1GB per month usage) as the BT Broadband Basic 17.99 package.

References

  • Service Migration - A good FAQ about the process of service migration, and what a MAC code is. This is Force9's explanation of it, but could equally be applied to your favourite ISP in most cases.
  • BT Broadband Services - Various information about Broadband

Comments and Feedback

As I said, this review was written through my own not-so-good experiences with setting up BT Broadband Basic. I would be very interested to hear other peoples experiences and workarounds, so please feel free to let me know using the comments here.


Please contact me if you have any comments or insights.

This article was originally published as Review of BT Broadband Basic.