Is this the best home hub money can buy?

BT vows to banish WiFi dead spots with its Whole Home wireless network

BT Whole Home WiFi, £195
BT Whole Home WiFi, £195 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

Home WiFi remains a capricious technology. Super-high frequency (SHF) 5 GHz radio, which powers WiFi, is, unusually in science, quite flaky and wilful. But for most of us, dead spots in the house are less an interesting anomaly and more an infuriating phenomenon.

I had my fill of them in our last home, a 1930s flat with steel in the walls – which is terrible for SHF and caused constant dead-spot misery. I tried various remedies but never properly solved it. Last summer, we moved into a 1704 loft, with walls devoid of metals; at the same time, BT brought out its HomeHub6, which promised a more penetrating signal. And so it was – except in our bedroom. Or to be more accurate, except on my side of the bed. There was a trickle on my wife’s side, but nothing on mine: a first-world problem par excellence, but annoying nonetheless.

I might have lived with this, had the apartment downstairs not also got a HomeHub6. (Geeky but bizarre aside: theirs was called BTHub6-25Z7; ours, BTHub6-2Z27. I have never seen such a near-clash of names, and mightily confusing it was. Each time I lost the minuscule bedroom signal and tried to reconnect, this near-identical hub ID would come up and I could never remember which was ours.)

I emailed a nephew, highly qualified in network design, to see if anything could finally be done about improving our WiFi. He had just installed a full-on, fail-safe professional network in his four-bedroom house. His response: “I’ve worked for major networking companies and ours is still rubbish. WiFi drops daily, I do a full reboot weekly and I can’t for the life of me work out why it’s so poor.”

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While this was oddly cheering, I still had no WiFi in bed. Then BT’s now widely advertised Whole Home came out. The ad claim – “WiFi in every room or your money back” – seemed irresistible, so I went for it.

BT Whole Home comes as three mini radar dish-like devices that form a wireless mesh. The “dishes” connect with each other and automatically switch your devices to the best signal. The system works with all routers, so there’s no need to be a BT customer.

Setting it up needed patience, with frustrations mitigated by BT’s superb phone app. Placing a “dish” in our bedroom oddly enough didn’t work. But putting it in an adjoining room where it fired through the bedroom wall did, exceptionally well (I said WiFi is capricious). So we now have, for the first time, totally stable, full-tilt, all‑pervasive WiFi. It’s a stress-reducing joy. 

BT say its three-dishes system will work in any home; I’m still sceptical this would apply to a big house. But with that money-back offer, why not try it?

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