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UPDATE Broadband Router Options for UK FTTC ISPs – Integrated VDSL Modem

Posted Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 (1:29 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 56,938)
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The United Kingdom is home to several million hybrid fibre FTTC superfast broadband ISP subscribers but to date most of those have been forced to connect to the service by linking an existing router to one of BTOpenreach’s VDSL modems. Now a new breed of router has emerged that integrates VDSL and here are some of the options.

I don’t know about you but I’ve always liked my home network to be free from clutter and thus the fewer devices or cables strewn about the place the better. A clean setup is also more energy/space efficient and easier to diagnose or access when things go wrong. Plus giving the household dog or cat one less electrical cable to gnaw on should always be considered a bonus!

However until recently anybody who ordered an up to 40-80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) “fibre broadband” service from their ISP was forced to access the service by plugging a separate Openreach VDSL Modem (e.g. Huawei EchoLife HG612 or ECI B-FOCuS) into an existing router.

On top of that Openreach’s modems come shipped in a locked-down state (i.e. no access to the web GUI or Telnet), which makes it difficult for advanced users to play around with the settings; at least not without risking damage to the device by attempting to unlock these elements through custom hacks or firmware.

Thankfully the introduction of a Self-Install (wires-only) solution for FTTC has encouraged a variety of changes, such as the ability for ISPs to ship their own VDSL modems or indeed a combined router with integrated VDSL. Some examples of pre-configured ISP routers with integrated VDSL include EE’s BrightBox 2 (here) and BT’s HomeHub 5 (here). Take note that existing BTInfinity customers can also purchase the HH5 separately for £129.

But what if you want to buy your own VDSL capable router and plug that into your connection? ISPreview.co.uk has shortlisted a selection of such devices below and summarised some of their key details to help you make a decision. Take note that we’ve mostly only included those that tend to cost under £200 (more expensive models are usually better for business environments).

VDSL (FTTC) Integrated Routers

Before we begin there are a few important points to make. Firstly, make sure you buy a router that’s built for the UK telecoms network because some countries have differences in their infrastructure that might cause performance problems or could even prevent you from connecting (i.e. don’t buy from an overseas store).

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46 Responses
  1. MikeW

    There’s one extra aspect to beware of, especially now that FTTC services open up IPTV services such as BT Vision… and that is support for the multicast video.

    I’ve seen limitations mentioned on the BT forum, which seem to restrict the choice of router; presumably the same restrictions appear for combined router/modems.

  2. Phil

    Link here to buy genuine BT Home Hub 5 for £129.00 including free shipping from BT shop: http://www.shop.bt.com/products/bt-home-hub-5-90RY.html

    Also can purchase BT Dual-band AC Wireless USB Dongle for £34.99 including free shipping from BT shop: http://www.shop.bt.com/products/bt-dual-band-ac-wireless-usb-dongle-90RZ.html

  3. Bob2002

    I’m not too bothered at the moment by having a separate VDSL modem and router, but a combo would make it much easier(I presume) to access stats if my line started playing up. My modem is ECI(difficult to hack the last time I checked) but I also have an unlocked HG612 in case I ever need line stats.

  4. dragon

    Now we need a source of VDSL modems for those of us who don’t want an all in one unit, since BT will probably stop supplying the VDSL modems.

    • At present Openreach will continue to offer its VDSL Modems as an option to ISPs and they’ve no current plans to change that approach, although that could always change in the more distant future.

      But it’s worth remembering that even Openreach’s modems are still closer to being routers than pure modems, so if you want to keep such things separate then you could set a second VDSL-only router to act as a modem and then link that to your router. I don’t know why you’d want to do that but it’s an option.

    • dragon

      @Mark the problem is although Openreach might offer the option to the ISP it doesn’t necessarily mean the ISP will give the end user the choice.

      There are several routers out there that have an Ethernet based interface therefore a separate VDSL modem is required, The devices you list are generally SOHO routers and fine for most people but some of us like to have devices that are a bit more flexible in terms of the configuration capabilities they have.

      E.g the UBNT edgerouter, Mikrotik routerboards, PfSense and all the other various linux/BSD based firewalls you can get thesedays. They give you much more configuration capability than your average soho AIO unit

      As you quite rightly point out the Units BTO supply are routers that have been placed in modem only/bridge mode. But it’s also worth noting a lot of all in One units don’t allow this so basically there needs to be a basic low cost Modem/Router with the ability to turn the Router bit off, It doesn’t even need Wi-FI.etc as that wouldn’t be used in this scenario.

  5. adslmax

    The DSL-N66U N900 looks very interesting. Has anyone tested the VDSL2 performance?

    • J Carrington

      Yes, I have been using this router. Sadly this is still a work-in-progress, just like the newer Asus routers (E.g. AC68U). I installed this VDSL router on my BT Infinity Line – at first the connection is very stable. Fast forward 5 days of uptime and WiFi disables itself, the syslog is blank and the DSL connection dies. I suspect this is a bug in the firmware, however I have decided to return it for a refund.

      I acquired the BT HomeHub 5, so now I use this as my VDSL router – WiFi speeds are far better than the Asus DSL-N66U. OK, you don’t get the advanced features on the HomeHub, but I would rather have a reliable connection. So in conclusion, I have given up with third party routers as the HH5 is very respectable! I agree with the recent review of it > http://www.trustedreviews.com/bt-home-hub-5_Peripheral_review

    • Chris Philpot

      Yes I’ve tested and the verdict is don’t waste your money on the asus dsl n66u. Is extremely unstable, full of bugs and best of all asus support guys are about as helpful as a chocolate fire guard. I returned mine for a full refund.

    • PC

      I have been using this for about a month and very seems fine. However, the first thing I did was to update the firmware (1.0.7, so it looks like the bugs have been ironed out. I am with zen and am getting average of 75/18 with 14ms ping.

  6. Max

    I find the comments about Billion routers being problematic very odd. The Billion 7800N is regarded as one of the best routers available for slower ADSL lines, it’s uptime is practically unparalleled. I went from 2 or 3 disconnects a day on my 2Mbps line using a Netgear router/modem to roughly 110days before the first disconnect once I got the 7800n. Its ability to let you change the SNR is also fantastic, as well as frequent firmware updates.

    • Our own experience of that particular router, which incidentally isn’t the one we mentioned above, are rather different. I had a Billion 7800 for a brief period and it struggled to handle the low noise margins on our line and kept dropping the connection.

      I’m not sure if they ever fixed that but the biggest issue for us was the poor wifi, which was sporadic and often seemed to stop working. A full reset was required to fix it and we’ve had similar problems with another Billion model; this wasn’t resolved after a replacement or firmware update.

      So if you go through three bits of kit from the same company over a period of years and experience similar problems then you begin lose a bit of faith. No problems in these areas with our current DrayTek and TP-Link kit though.

  7. Phil

    J Carrington – can you tell me if this BT Home Hub 5 got full line stats access on the web feature that showing sync rate, noise margin etc. I heard BT had locked it and cannot access line stats on this router?

  8. Starman

    Phil, a quick copy and paste from the “Helpdesk” section on the HH5 –

    ====
    1. Product name: BT Home Hub
    2. Serial number:
    3. Firmware version: Software version 4.7.5.1.83.8.173.1.6 (Type A) Last updated 27/12/13
    4. Board version: BT Hub 5A
    5. VDSL uptime: 5 days, 11:47:39
    6. Data rate: 14424 / 58897
    7. Maximum data rate: 17302 / 69297
    8. Noise margin: 5.8 / 6.2
    9. Line attenuation: 0.0 / 17.6
    10. Signal attenuation: 0.0 / 17.8
    11. Data sent/received: 192.4 MB / 3.8 GB
    12. Broadband username: bthomehub@btbroadband.com
    13. BT Wi-fi: Yes
    ====

    • Phil

      That’s pretty good. I was surprise it’s look like unlocked BT HH5, as I don’t know why other say it locked and you cannot see any sync line rate.

  9. Starman

    The blank upload line and signal attenuation has been a bug since the close testing on the modem and they are aware of it. Also it doesn’t accurately report data sent/receive.

  10. Phil

    I cannot decided yet as will I go for this when my FTTC is available to order:

    BT Openreach Modem with my Netgear DGND3700v2 or go for standalone all in one BT HH5?

  11. pj66300

    I have tried the ZyXEL SBG3300-N wireless/VDSL2/ADSL2+ router and that works fine on the PlusNet version of what is in effect BT Infinity. It locks up at 80Mb/s down and 20Mb/s up, which is the same as the Draytek 2760Vn, which I also own. I found the Zyxel a bit easier to set up but it doesn’t have quite such comprehensive bandwidth management facilities on the LAN side. I note that the Zyxel also claims to support vectoring but have no direct experience of this as yet, as it is not implemented on the ISP’s modem. The Zyxel can be found for a bit less than the Draytek.

    • cyclope

      “PlusNet version of what is in effect BT Infinity” No it’s VDSL2 not infinity, BT infinity is just a brand name for the Openreach VDSL2 product just as Fibre is used in bb adds ,FTTC isnt true fibre where as FTTH is Also the 80/20 are max Sync rates and are capped by Openreach There’s a couple of mis conceptions sorted out for the new year

    • pj66300

      I am well aware that BT Infinity is just a product name and fully understand that the service of VDSL2 is provided via a FTTC connection. However the PlusNet service is the wholesale BT Infinity product in terms of its operation, after all PlusNet is a wholly owned subsidiary of BT, although it has an independent support and sales operation. VDSL2 technology is in reality an upper frequency extension to ADSL2 using additional carriers at higher frequencies, hence it will only work well over short copper pairs, as the line attenuation increases with carrier frequency. At my UK location there is probably only about 200m cable between my modem and the street Cab. hence the speed is limited by the setting of the modem in the street Cab. and almost certainly not by my modem.

  12. stoatwblr

    It’s always been possible to use a privately owned VDSL2 box on a FTTC connection and the first thing I did after the BT engineer left was to plug my Fritzbox directly in. It works like a charm and can easily transfer ungodly amounts of data each month (that’s helped by being less than 100 metres from the cabinet).

    The Fritz really is the Muttz Nutz. Expensive if you think of it as a router, but if you think of it as a router + answering machine/fax/pabx/cordless base/call filtering system + VoiP system + NAS + print server + home automation controller then it’s a lot cheaper than the seperate components.

    FWIW: using Asus kit: When it works it’s good, but my experience of Asus over the years has been poor when things don’t work. Asus have a tendency to run away and hide when things get difficult (they even shut down customer forums a decade ago because too many people were complaining about buggy video cards). Personally I’d stay well away until all the bugs are ironed out.

  13. cyclope

    I certainly would’nt be paying £100+ for a BT hub v5 complete with backdoor

    I currently use the BT openreach modem and a Billion 7800 wired router without issues,get the full sync rates 80/20 and get around 73-74mbps & 19.5mbps actual throughput

  14. Neil McRae

    Make sure you buy a router that has G.Vector support or a path to it. If you don’t do this I would expect you will have to buy another router at sometime in the future.

    cyclope – what are you on about with a back door ?

    Neil.

  15. X66yh

    I guess Cyclope is suggesting that the BT HH5 has some special software backdoor entrance for BT to muck about with it and change its settings (or worse!)without the user knowing. (or the CIA/FBI/NSA/GCHQ/MI5/MI6 etc)

    I presume he has disabled “BTagent” service which runs on the Openreach modem as exactly what this does is uncertain and could equally be a backdoor of some form.

  16. CrazyLazy

    Of the bunch id have the Asus, seems to be the best in terms of features/price.

    If money was no object the Fritzbox. Would not touch the Billion mentioned (feature set is too dated).

    Dreytek is nice but overpriced with only 300Mb wireless.

    As for the BT Homehub 5 like all homehubs there is no serious configuration you can do to it. Can not even change MAC address or DNS on homehubs. Would AVOID it like the plague at £120. At that price you can get gear infinitely more configurable.

  17. Max

    There is some confusion reported on the FRITZ!Box 3390 – this is the faster router, faster routing and faster wifi with simultaneous dual band 450×450 wifi, with the same feautures as the 7390 less the integrated voice services and DECT.

  18. J Carrington

    Correction needed to the author’s comment on Asus DSL-N66U N900. It does not support AC wireless – specs for wireless:-

    802.11a : 6,9,12,18,24,36,48,54Mbps
    802.11b : 1, 2, 5.5, 11Mbps
    802.11g : 6,9,12,18,24,36,48,54Mbps
    802.11n : up to 450Mbps

  19. infunity

    Why oh why is it so damn difficult to find a VDSL2 modem router that also features 802.11ac?!

    Sometimes technology moves forward so slowly.

    • It’s likely to be a combination of the usual factors. The 802.11ac standard is still fairly new (most of the early routers used the draft spec but many waited until the final one was ready) and that means that early chips are also more expensive and require a bit of extra R&D.

      On the flip side there hasn’t been much demand for VDSL routers, at least not in the UK where Openreach has tended to include its own modem with new installs and that’s only just become optional. So we are at the start of a change and right now only a few are ready but the number will grow and prices will fall.

  20. Felix

    I have the TG589vn v3 provided by UTV Internet (eircom lines, Ireland) and it’s an absolute pain. I’ve been trying to bridge it with Billion 7800dxl over the last few days with absolutely no luck. I even tried to connect via my laptop (win dial in PPPoE) after putting my TG589vn into bridge mode with dhcp both on and off. Has anyone here encountered similar issues? I tried billion forum but it’s not the most lively place for answers. Another problem is everytime I put in in bridge mode and then go back to ‘routed’ mode I can’t get the connection. Only after I perform a factory reset (pin at the back for 30s) and then enter my PPPoE username and password I get it back online but it still requires me to go into broadband connection and disconnect it manually, input the username/password again and press connect. Only then it connects. I’m so sick of the situation that I’m considering returning my BiPAC 7800dxl back and investing that money into a proper replacement vdsl router.

  21. AP

    Having just had BT infinity 2 installed, I had to specifically ask the openreach engineer for the openreach modem as it was just going to install the service with the BT HH5 and its in-build vdsl modem. Thankfully I had read of the port forwarding issues with the BT HH5 and said I didn’t want to use the BT HH5 so he went back to his van and got the openreach modem.

  22. jpd

    hi best all in 1 box for gaming?

  23. I’ve tried 4 of the VDSL2 routers available.

    Firstly billion 8200 on Sky, rock solid 80/20 profile absolutely no drop-outs on sync, shame about the limited 100meg lan ports. Constant 75 meg down and 18 up.

    Also tried Draytec 2760n on sky, absolute pile of pants. User interface dreadfully slow, fell over all the time, sent back for refund. Dratyec support very helpfull though.

    Asus dsl-n66u when I swapped to Plusnet, sync rate fine but upnp did not work and router would just not play ball with port forwarding. Sent back after absolutly no help with support.

    Must hand it to Jerry for the Fritzbox 3390. Solid performance, great user interface and stats pages. Easy to set up and rock solid stability. Only criticism is the VPN section, don’t like using the Fritz software for something that should be easy to use. Also support G.vectoring and 30mHz profiles when rolled out by Openreach.

  24. cyclope

    @pj66300 Bt infinty is what BT retail market it as it’s a BT retail band name,
    For BT openreach’s VDSL2 product( FTTC )
    When other ISP’s including Plusnet (A retail consumer brand owned by BT) they do not place an order for infinity , because it’s a brand name for bt ‘s retail marketing puposes outside that it doesnt exist, just as they use the word fibre which is misleading to those who aren’t in the know ,

    @Neil McRae,The BT agent, as someone else pointed out, the HH5 has this built in, and one of it’s uses is to update firmware remotely, but this has been causing problems of the untit consantly rebooting its self, and no doubt DLM will bre working overtime on those connections as a result,But it could be also exploited because it’s there and iirc on the hh5 it can’t be disabled by the EU!!

  25. stoat

    A warning to those considering the Fritz 7390:

    The Fritz can get _very_ sluggish to respond if you’re running lots of streams through it or take it near 80Mb/s download. This does start interfering with its PBX functions

    They also have a tendency to crash if running “too many” connections.

    AVM try to blame this on PtP software but the stark reality is that my decade-old netgear box handled more active streams than the Fritz does.

    Their idea of “user support” is questionable at times too. If it gets “too hard” expect them to stop responding to queries

    (They’re hardly alone among german companies pulling this stunt. Suse adopted the hedgehog position over broken software and even refused to respond to Novell (who own them) when we escalated to head office)

    No idea if the 7490 is any better performance-wise.

    OTOH Fritzes are brilliant when not pushed to their limits. As a ADSL unit it was superb, but full speed VDSL2 clearly pushes the 7390 to the ragged edge of oblivion.

  26. You guys should take a look at the ZTE H168N, any interest please email graeme(at)gen-xit.co.uk

    Graeme

  27. cyclope

    What about the new Billion 8800NL ADSL /VDSL Modem/Router ? http://www.billion.uk.com/product/vdsl/8800NL.htm

  28. stoat

    If you run P2P (ie: bit torrent), it’s fairly easy to bring a Fritz to its knees. They can’t seem to handle more than about 400 connections before things go _very_ soggy, no matter how fast the link is – I was able to cause this on both ADSL and VDSL.

    I’d be interested to know how the other boxes hold up to this kind of thing (almost all my BT is peering of linux distros, they’re a very popular item and it’s useful for network connection testing.)

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