The Virgin Media Hub routers have long been the week point of the ISP’s system. While the routers can be put into modem mode, letting you add your own mesh system, a new upgrade may mean you don’t have to: Virgin Media Intelligent WiFi Plus.
Rather than a hardware upgrade alone, Intelligent WiFi Plus is a combination of software, available for the Hub 3 and Hub 4 routers, and plug-in satellites called WiFi Pods. Each pod, powered by Plume, extends wireless coverage around the home, building a wireless mesh network. Virgin Media says that the system can deliver up-to three-times faster Wi-Fi speeds in more locations in the home.
Virgin Media hasn’t released the full system specs of the system, but it would appear as though it’s a dual-band system like the Hub, which means that some of the wireless bandwidth has to be shared for communication with Pods. A lot of dedicated mesh systems, such as the Netgear Orbi RBK50, are tri-band, using a dedicated wireless network for communication between satellites.
Virgin Media customers on Ultimate Oomph and Gig1 plans can sign up to the new service and get it for no extra cost; otherwise, the service costs £5 per month. Initially, you get a single Pod (sent via the post with no engineer setup required), although if you’re having problems with dead spots in your home, you can phone Virgin to get additional Pods.
Other customers won’t miss out, as Hub 3 and Hub 4 Intelligent WiFi updates promise to boost speeds and reliability for all customers.
With Intelligent WiFi, the existing routers get Channel optimisation 2.0, which will use additional channels in the scheme, automatically changing the routers to use the least congested channels. Adaptive band steering will push devices to the best wireless frequency (2.4GHz or 5GHz) at the right time, based on capability, signal strength and performance.
For those that upgrade to Intelligent WiFi Plus with the WiFi Pods, you also get in-home roaming, where devices are pushed to connect to the best access point, whether that’s a Hub or a Pod.
On the surface, it’s a similar system to the BT Complete Wi-Fi system, which uses the standard BT router but expands it into a mesh system with the addition of satellites.
It remains to be seen how fast Virgin’s new system is and if it can compete with the mesh products on our best wireless router list. We’ll bring you more information and a review when available.