April 17 2011
It’s customary in technology to assume that we are all American and report everything from a US perspective – even products and services unavailable elsewhere. Here, then, is that rare thing, a British product only available – or relevant – in the UK. So please look away now if you don’t live here.
We recently moved to a property which isn’t served by Virgin (so bye-bye, 50 Mbps internet), where satellite dishes aren’t allowed (cheerio, Sky) and, to increase our isolation, there’s no DAB radio signal, either. So our only connection to the world for phone, broadband, radio and TV is an ancient copper phone wire, courtesy of British Telecommunications plc, aka (by me, anyway), the GPO. Great.
Now, anyone who has searched for Wi-Fi in Britain will have noticed that most home networks have a BT Home Hub at their centre. BT is the people’s choice. Unfortunately, though, so are Harry Hill and battered sweet and sour pork balls – which both leave me cold. Hence I’ve always been sniffy about the ubiquitous Home Hub.
Yet, for those paddle-free up the same technological creek – not uncommon even in cities – I can assure you that BT turns out not to be a fate worse than dial-up. Indeed, it’s unexpectedly OK, with hidden benefits, too, such as free BT Openzone and Fonera, which enables you to borrow millions of other people’s Wi-Fi. Our broadband is only achieving between 4 Mbps on a bad day to 16 when it’s working well. But it feels oddly quicker. There’s a snap to it that isn’t unlike my old Virgin. And BT Vision, its TV thing, is OK, too. Some features, such as the poor interface, might make you think that BT is the Civil Service in disguise, but it’s not that bad.
The Home Hub, meanwhile, turns out to be a genuinely remarkable “everything” machine. This handsome fellow is the latest, the Home Hub 3 – just out – and its USP is that it has clever systems on board to avoid interference from other people’s Wi-Fi by switching channels automatically. This is relevant for us because we have some 14 wireless devices, yet t’internet has been even more rock-solid stable than with the previous model. Admirable products all round, then. Who’d have thought?