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The Quality of an ISP’s Bundled Broadband Router Does Matter

Monday, April 13th, 2015 (8:07 am) - Score 3,759

The latest survey of 2,725 ISPreview.co.uk readers has found that the quality of the router that big broadband ISPs bundle with their Internet access packages does have an impact on whether consumers choose a particular provider, with 36.9% saying it was important to their choice. But most would also like more choice.

As a rule most ISPs that bundle a router with their broadband product will only include hardware based off a cheaper chipset with fewer advanced features, although the recent addition of Gigabit Ethernet (LAN) ports and 802.11ac WiFi by many of the largest ISPs is beginning to change that (e.g. BT’s HomeHub 5, TalkTalk’s Super Router, EE’s BrightBox 2 and Virgin Media’s SuperHub 2AC).

Never the less many consumers still prefer to buy their own, usually more advanced, kit in the shops and as a result 69.8% support the idea of consumers being given an option for whether or not to take the ISPs bundled router or save money on the sign-up by using their own kit.

Is the quality of an ISPs bundled broadband router/modem important to your choice of provider?
Yes – 36.9%
No – 35.1%
Don’t Know – 27.9%

In your view, which big ISP has the best bundled home broadband router?
Virgin Media – 37.5%
TalkTalk – 26.8%
Don’t Know – 16.2%
BT – 10%
Sky Broadband – 6.8%
EE – 2.4%

Should big ISPs offer an option to save money by not forcing you to take their bundled router (i.e. use your own device)?
Yes – 69.8%
No – 30.1%

The results are interesting, although ISPs could face a difficult task in weighing the desire for more choice against the fact that bundled routers also make providing support for end-users far easier, not least by offering a common platform and fixes via remotely managed firmware updates.

On top of that it’s clear that some providers, such as those like Sky Broadband and it’s somewhat dated SR101/102 router, could be missing a trick by failing to offer kit with Gigabit ports and more capable WiFi (e.g. Sky has yet to add 5GHz support). Others, such as PlusNet, have a similar problem and even their latest Hub Zero (Sagemcom 2704n) seems to fall behind the times (here). On the other hand one advantage of lower spec kit is that the energy usage remains minimal, which is good for electricity bills.

Finally, for a bit of fun, we also asked our readers to vote for which of the big ISPs they thought had the best hardware and Virgin Media came top. In fairness it’s actually quite difficult to judge this one because many providers will often ship several different models of router, which makes it tricky to do a simple like-for-like comparison. It’s also perhaps more likely that people voted through the viewpoint of perception rather than experience, since it’s unlikely that all of the respondents would have been able to test the latest routers from each ISP.

Elsewhere this month’s new survey asks what is the minimum broadband speed you would accept when buying a new house and would you pay more for a home that supported superfast broadband (24Mbps+)? Vote Here.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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13 Responses
  1. Avatar Hull_lad says:

    I would suspect that the vast majority of users have no clue how good/bad their router is. As the article states, it makes sense for ISPs to provide a good quality piece of kit to ensure they aren’t getting customer service issues all the time. However, it’s often the bean counters that make the decision on what gets used, and would rather see customers ‘make-do’ for the sake of a few quid, than have the customer base all enjoy the best performance they can get!

  2. Avatar MrWhite says:

    I would also suggest that very few people use any kind of “advanced” features – guest SSIDs, QoS etc. It makes sense for an ISP to provide a router, so that they are able to provide support easier/more cheaply. But it also makes sense to provide decent kit that easily support their fixed line offerings.

  3. Avatar Dragon says:

    The SH2AC from Virgin actually isn’t bad, Would be nice if it has SNMP but it’s got most of the other boxes ticked, pretty decent wi-fi, guest SSID’s and gigabit ports.

    Also there is a setting to switch it into bridge/modem only mode if you still did want to use your own router.

  4. Avatar cyclope says:

    All the copper bb ISP’s offer a poor quality, locked and in many ways un configurable,POS that wouldn’t even make a good door stop,

    If i need a router I’ll go and buy one that suits my needs

  5. Avatar Web Dude says:

    OK – someone enlighten me, please, as to why there’s a benefit in having Gigabit ethernet ports?

    I started off in the 80s with a set of three PCs when I was testing Novell on a 10 Mbps LAN (for work). I can see that for file transfers, Gigabit ethernet would be handy, but

    a) many people are using wireless connections so full duplex is unlikely to work (can someone point to a combo where one end is using 2.4 GHz and the other 5 GHz, to go full duplex?) and

    b) unless you have Fibre from Hyperoptic or similar, you won’t be getting much more than 100 Mbps from the internet (is Openreach still offering 110 Mbps, 220 Mbps and 330 Mbps for FTTP ?)

    I’m genuinely happy to be educated but for now see linited need for Gigabit ethernet at home.

  6. Avatar SSUK says:

    Great result for Virgin and Talk Talk. Having used 4 of the 5 listed providers gear id also say the result is right.

    EE’s latest box ive never used and i suspect its bottom because many others have not and they are the smallest of the 5 when it comes to fixed line broadband.
    Sky’s latest box is a dated slow joke
    BT’s latest box is unreliable and offers little configuration (The HH5 has had numerous issues and apart from the shell there was not much difference feature wise between the HH3 and HH$)
    Talk Talk’s box is amazingly and shockingly a half decent device with generally reliable connection and half decent broadband (made by Huawei)
    Virgin’s latest box is easily king of the bunch, gives most detial of them all about your connection, has the best wifi by a margin, decent build quality and chipset, its basically a rebadged Netgear box.

    Sky and BT need to up their game in this area.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “Virgin’s latest box is easily king of the bunch”

      If you can get Virgin why bother with FTTC?

    2. Avatar SSUK says:

      You would need to ask someone who has the choice of both why they would take FTTC over Virgin cable. If i had both available where i currently live id be straight back to Virgin, and my download speed doubled to what i currently have no hesitation at all.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      …but you were speaking as if a user of the Virgin router?

    4. Avatar SSUK says:

      I was a Virgin user, they were my prior ISP, until we moved home. My parents against my advice are with Talk Talk, The other halves parents are with Sky and my sister uses BT. As i said i have “used 4 of the 5 listed providers gear” on more than enough occasions to know which gives the best functionality.

      Talk Talk shockingly as in every other department they are terrible, have pretty decent end user equipment.

      Skys gear has weak wireless

      BTs homehub 5 is unreliable and does not even allow for things like changing DNS.

      The devices from Talk Talk and Virgin are far superior to the others, though for around £60-100 now you can buy gear for FTTC that puts to shame all the FTTC providers gear above.

    5. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Quite an alobrate tale

      Wasted on myself tho 😉

    6. Avatar SSUK says:

      You’re Welcome.

    7. Avatar Khairul says:

      I am currently using the EE Bright Box 1, and I’m planning on moving to Sky in a couple of months. Would I be better off sticking to my current router, or even reverting to the TalkTalk Huawei HG523a which I still have lying around from a previous contract?

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