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UK ISP Sky Broadband Must Try Harder to Deliver a Better Router

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 (1:18 am) - Score 18,759

Over the past couple of years most of the big broadband ISPs have introduced new routers with modern features, such as support for the latest Gigabit capable 802.11ac WiFi standard, Gigabit LAN ports, IPv6, USB ports, 5GHz wifi and so forth (note: there’s some variance on these between ISPs). But not all have been as fast to keep pace.

Admittedly this is perhaps not an issue that will bother advanced users, the bulk of which will be happy to shell out a little extra dosh for the latest hardware. Never the less most consumers do tend to go with what they’re given and in Sky Broadband’s case, an ISP that also makes it tedious to find your connection password and thus to adopt third-party kit (Wireshark can help you here), that could be leaving customers at a growing disadvantage.

At present Sky’s most advanced kit is its Sky Hub (SR102) router, which was launched at the very end of last year and yet it’s only redeeming feature is the addition of an internal VDSL [FTTC] modem (here). Otherwise the bog standard 802.11n / 2.4GHz (144Mbps maximum data transmission rate) wifi, 100Mbps LAN ports and limited web-based interface are well behind the competition.

The Rivals

By comparison most of Sky’s big rivals have been offering 5GHz wifi for the best part of two years and Gigabit LAN (1000Mbps) ports have also become increasingly common. It’s also not uncommon to find USB connectivity (i.e. for storage and sometimes mobile broadband support) on the back of the latest kit and the most recent hardware from BT (HomeHub5), EE (BrightBox2) and TalkTalk (Super Router) has even added Gigabit 802.11ac wifi into the mix, which is very cutting edge stuff for mass-market hardware.

Clearly some ISPs are taking the feature war seriously and recognising that this is fast becoming an important part of their product offerings, which will come as little surprise given the wider markets aggressively competitive tendencies. Meanwhile Sky, which is arguably one of the better rated big ISPs, seems to be falling further behind and it’s a sentiment that many customers seem to share.

The Future

ISPreview.co.uk recently had the opportunity to put some of these concerns to Sky, which agreed that they were behind the competition in terms of key features. But the good news is that they are looking at new ways of enhancing their products, although sadly they wouldn’t be drawn on any specific plans or details for future router releases.

But there is another important question to ask, do any of these modern features really make a difference? For example, the benefits of faster WiFi are obvious but many consumers still use devices (Smartphones, adapters etc.) that don’t support the 5GHz wifi band in 802.11n and very few are ready to benefit from the latest 802.11ac standard.

Similarly it’s good to have Gigabit LAN ports (this often also indicates a router with a faster chipset) but, setting aside the benefits to a fully wired local network, these days wifi is more common for home networks and in any case the only mass-market national ISP that can offer a fixed line Internet connection above 100Mbps is Virgin Media (there are a few niche Gigabit ISPs like B4RN, Hyperoptic etc. but the vast majority aren’t covered). Meanwhile having a USB port can come in handy but many might not even realise what they can do with it.

So in a way the differences may not yet be a critical issue for Sky but that’s not how marketing works. In a competitive market Sky needs to keep its eye on the ball before it rolls too far down hill and having kit that’s able to get the best out of a modern superfast broadband line is becoming increasingly important.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Avatar boggits says:

    The question with sky is more nuanced in tge fact they prevent and end user replacing their router if they do need any of these features.

  2. Avatar Tim says:

    To be fair Sky were one of the first to offer a self-install FTTC/VDSL router. It was a poor choice by them to only offer 2.4Ghz and only 100Mbps Ethernet but this was likely cost saving as the SR102 became the standard free router.

    I’ve just upgraded to the “fibre unlimited pro” 80Mbps service and have no way of using this speed unless connected by Ethernet… I hope Sky will make a new 802.11ac router available for fibre customers. A new router should be free for Pro customers.

    … I still have no 802.11ac devices though so in no hurry.

    1. Avatar Matthew says:

      You could always plug an 802.11ac access point (Or a router after some reconfiguration) into their router.

      Most consumer routers bridge their Wi-Fi interface directly to the LAN ports so if you turn off the DHCP server in the 2nd router and connect it LAN > LAN with the Sky one that should work.

      You might also want change it’s IP (You might actually need to if it has the same default IP as the Sky supplied router) so you can still access it to change the wireless settings.

  3. Avatar dave says:

    virgin could do with adding 802.11ac and usb to a new model.

  4. Avatar doofy says:

    shite gear anyways that’s why no one goes with sky its like all talk there broadband and fibre are crap

    1. Avatar BT Investor says:

      Sky are one of the biggest ISP’s in the UK. Their gear is not holding them back. But if you do care about free equipment then BT is the way to go with the market leading Home Hub line of routers.

    2. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      The HH5’s wireless performance is garbage.

    3. Avatar Chris says:

      Ignition what’s funny is that on the HH5 trial initially the wireless was very good, it easily matched asus performance, but then near the end of the trial they changed something and it went quite bad, they never fixed it before launch dispite my protests.

  5. Avatar RLP says:

    On the positive side the latest 3 routers (including the SR102) all support IPv6 now.

    However the points raised about the WiFi and LAN speeds have frequently been raised with Sky. Currently there has been no change on this topic.

    However the devices which are currently being sold to consumers in the UK rarely support anything like what 802.11ac can provide. Many do now have 1Gbit LAN ports.

    What would currently be appreciated would be support for 300mbps WiFi as many devices sold in the shops support 150mbps, but this is on a pair channel, which the Sky routers don’t support.

    5Ghz support is a definite must too now. More and more devices are being shipped with this now and in some areas the 2.4GHz channels are swamped. Having 5GHz available would help many more people now than a couple of years ago.

    As for WiFi throughput, the downfall is getting the traffic over the Internet. It is possible to get around 80mbps over WiFi for something connected to the LAN, but this is very hard when the Internet is involved. I often wonder if the processors used by the routers are sufficient for these speeds and whether they should have more speed and perhaps more internal RAM.

  6. Avatar Elite says:

    I’ve just renewed my sky fiber Pro contract for a discounted price as i was happy with there speeds, latency day and night just didn’t like the price.
    Sadly they wouldn’t give me the new router for free they wanted to charge me £70 which is a complete joke considering the lacking features!

  7. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

    Sky still see broadband as a way to reduce churn on their TV products, and as above are happy to discount it to retain TV / telephony revenue. They can charge a bomb on line rental along with everyone else and use it to subsidise the broabdand a bit.

    Not really surprising their main focus is to spend as little as possible on the products while retaining their selling points of being unlimited and unthrottled. Part of spending as little as possible being to supply an abysmal router.

  8. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

    Thanks to BT not deploying FTTP to any scale there’s no real need for 802.11ac on Sky’s routers.

    Decent 40MHz support on 802.11n will be adequate to not bottleneck the Pro product.

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