Virgin Media issues firmware update to firm's Hub 3 Wi-Fi router and claims significant performance increases
While other broadband suppliers such as BT and TalkTalk are going down the mesh wireless route in a bid to improve customers’ Wi-Fi woes, Virgin Media has decided to issue a firmware update. The new update, which has now been rolled out to the majority of the company’s Hub 3 users, will deliver a claimed performance boost of up to three times in “certain rooms in the home”.
At an event at Virgin Media’s “top secret” wireless testing facility in High Wycombe, where the firm has two houses contained within giant, warehouse-sized anechoic chambers, it unveiled that the update will bring three major improvements to the Hub 3.
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“Intelligent WiFi will allow our customers to make the most of their broadband while also helping to easily overcome any connectivity conundrums around the home,” said Sir Richard Sinclair, executive director of connectivity at Virgin Media.
The news will likely come as welcome relief to users of the company’s standard-issue Wi-Fi router, which didn’t perform well in our review last year. Our reviewer said it was “slow and lacking in features” and that it “proved a poor performer all-round” in testing so anything the company can do to mitigate that would be welcome.
The first improvement is Wi-Fi channel optimisation, whereby the router monitors the airwaves for interference every 15 minutes, switching the channel the network is being broadcast on if necessary. This isn’t a new technology – it’s been employed in BT’s routers for a few years now – but should ensure more efficient use of the existing wireless spectrum.
The second improvement is called ‘band steering’ and it’s all about making better use of the dual-band technology that most routers and devices now support. It proactively and “seamlessly” moves connected devices onto the router’s faster – and typically less-congested – 5GHz frequency band, where appropriate.
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In Virgin Media’s tests, this boosted the number of devices connecting automatically to the 5GHz frequency band by 25%. Again, it’s not a new technology, merely one that ought to have been implemented when the router was first released.
The final improvement Virgin Media is making is the addition of Airtime Fairness, a technology that aims to improve the share of bandwidth allocated to connected devices across the network so that slower devices don’t monopolise and slow down the connectivity of faster devices.
Users may be disappointed that the company isn’t introducing a mesh Wi-Fi product along the lines of BT’s Complete Wi-Fi, which improves connectivity and signal strength by adding extra hardware repeater “nodes” around the house. However, Virgin Media says it will supply powerline wireless adapters for use in Wi-Fi black spots.
Users will be able to scan for such black spots – and perform other useful tasks such as pausing Wi-Fi – using the revamped Connect app for smartphones.