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2016-17 UPDATE – VDSL Router Options for UK FTTC “Fibre Broadband” ISPs

Monday, January 11th, 2016 (2:06 am) - Score 164,816
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Today we publish our third and probably final annual summary of home routers with integrated VDSL2 modems, which are designed to be used with superfast “fibre broadband” offering ISPs (BT, TalkTalk, PlusNet, Sky Broadband etc.) that use the FTTC / VDSL2 technology (FTTrN and FTT-Basement also use VDSL2).

Admittedly most of the big ISPs will give you a free bundled router or separate VDSL2 modem when you buy their service, but often these are low-budget models that come with restricted / locked feature sets or moderate to poor performance. In that situation you may prefer to buy your own third-party device and so we created this simplified guide to help summarise the options.

As usual we recommend that this be read in conjunction with our earlier guides (HERE and HERE), since many of the router models for 2014 and 2015 are still just as valid (choice wise) as those released in time for 2016. In fact there’s something to be said for buying a slightly older device that has had all of its bugs ironed out (e.g. the TP-LINK TD-W9980 (N600) has improved since last year).

So far in the past two guides we’ve covered the following routers: Technicolor/Thomson TG589vn v3, DrayTek Vigor 2760n (2860), Billion 8200N, FRITZ!Box 7390 – 7490 / 3390, Asus DSL-N66U N900, Billion BiPAC 8800NL, TP-LINK TD-W9980 (N600), ASUS DSL-AC68U AC1900, ZyXEL SBG3300-N and the Thomson TG789Vn v3 (Technicolor).

But this year there have been a couple of changes in the market. Firstly, BTOpenreach started to roll-out a new Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) and Fibre-to-the-Basement (FTT-Basement) tech in order to complement their dominant Fibre-to-the-Cabinet. As a consumer you don’t need to worry about this because at present they all use VDSL2.

Secondly the new Gigabit capable 802.11ac Wi-Fi specification was still in its infancy last year, but this year all of the devices on our list support the AC spec. Just remember that you won’t be able to make use of such performance unless your other adapters and devices also support 802.11ac and even then Wi-Fi has its limits (See our article – 10 Top Tips for Boosting Your Home Wi-Fi Wireless Network Speeds).

Overall we expect that this may be our last summary of FTTC / VDSL2 routers because they’ve reached a good level of maturity and over the next few years BT will begin to deploy the next generation G.fast broadband technology, which will need new hardware (good third-party routers probably won’t show up for a while).

Integrated VDSL/FTTC Routers – 2016 Edition

As with the previous roundups, we’re sticking to our rule that this summary should only include routers that we consider to be within a sub-£200 price bracket (ideally £150 or less) for consumer affordability. Anything more expensive than this is usually intended for business purposes or simply not affordable mass-market hardware and thus not a focus for us.

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Mark Jackson

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.

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26 Responses
  1. Dragon

    There’s nothing custom about the encapsulation on the VDSL Side on Skys FTTC (unless they’ve changed it since I was a customer). It’s exactly the same VDSL/Modem settings as any other FTTC line.

    It’s just standard DHCP/Routed IP the only thing is they want the username/password supplied in a DHCP option (61 if I remember rightly) – Which although option 61 is part of the DHCP standard a lot of SOHO vendors don’t bother to support it. Specifically their DHCP client probably DOES support it but they don’t expose the required configuration options to set it in their webUI.

    • I’ll grant you that ‘custom’ might not be the best word (I’ll change that), but other ISPs don’t tend to run into the same issue and so we felt it necessary to highlight this so that Sky customers can check first.

      The VR200 does actually support Option 61, but it’s not yet setup for Sky. I’m not sure why they didn’t do that at release, but we’re told it will be fixed soon.

  2. Captain_Cretin

    I have the VR200, and although the VDSL performance is very good,the AC750 WIFI is pants; dropping it in as a replacement for my old N300 router saw throughput speeds drop from 75Mbps to 30mbps on 2.4Ghz.
    5Ghz doesnt seem too bad through floorboards, but through 2 brick walls it is no better than 2.4Ghz, 77Mbps through the floor, but 32Mbps through the walls on my 80Mb coonection.

    I have noticed that the blue activity lights on the router dont blink, I assume this is a firmware issue, but although it makes diagnosis harder, it does mean the device doesnt disturb us at night (VDSL plate is in the bedroom, next to the bed)

    There area few gremlins in the set-up pages as well,
    The Easy set up goes through everything with you, but sets the router up for ADSL, not VDSL, so you then have to go through it all in manual to set up.

    Once set to VDSL, select the wrong option and it goes back to ADSL again – but doesnt tell you…..

  3. Eccles

    The trouble with all these routers is that none of them are ‘BT approved’, so if you have to raise a fault, OpenReach won’t look into it. The current approved list is tiny and out of date. Hopefully with recent changes to the test process will see a lot more routers on the market that are approved, otherwise come March there will be an increasing amount of hardware that being connected that in unapproved.

    • Steve Jones

      The advice for this is to always keep your ISP router/modem to hand (which the great majority of people will have as part of their deal). It’s not only useful to to head off support issues with your ISP (and any related OR issues), but it can also be a very useful in eliminating router/modem issues.

    • craski

      @Eccles
      Correct. I’ve a fault open with Zen on a new VDSL line and they’ve pretty much refused to raise a fault with openreach until I put the OR provided ECI modem back on the line (which doesnt give me any stats what-so-ever)

    • peter

      “The trouble with all these routers is that none of them are ‘BT approved’, so if you have to raise a fault, OpenReach won’t look into it.”

      Utter nonsense, many ISPs do not even supply you with a modem/router or give you an option not to take the supplied gear which often has costs attached, but will still support you if issues occur and send Openreach out where needed.

      “BT approved”

      You mean like the ECI modems with no G.INP support on the downstream?
      Homehub 5A again with no G.INP, and has always had issues such as dropping wifi and crashing generally.
      Anything older from them (AKA HH3 and HH4) is nothing but a router anyway and would have nothing (unless faulty) to do with VDSL connection issues, that would come back to the modem side.
      Thompson stuff on the “approved list” is no better.

      Take note of the so called Approved list from BT/Openreach and its so old you will have to buy a substandard device so old that you will have to probably buy it used off fleabay.

      Everything above even the new Thompson (the cheapest and least feature packed of the bunch) is far superior to anything on BT/Openreaches list both in terms of performance and reliability. Which may be why BT/Openreach have not updated their list for a while, they have finally realised everything they recommend is junk.

      Ill take anything mentioned above over BTs list or anything that in general meets proper testing and meets ITU spec, but thanks for the attempted scaremongering.

    • Neil

      All the devices above meet everything required from BT and their SIN498 sheet.

      http://www.sinet.bt.com/sinet/SINs/pdf/498v6p0_C.pdf

      There is no “list” of specific approved devices i am aware of from BT. Though i may be wrong, perhaps the poster above would be kind enough to point to the list of approved devices, which would be helpful for anyone wanting a “BT approved” device.

    • Eccles

      See page 28: https://www.btwholesale.com/shared/document/Products/Broadband/fibre_to_the_Connect/Handbook_and_Technical/WBC_FTTC_Handbook_Issue_10.pdf
      and http://www.cerberusnetworks.co.uk/index.php/support-pages/guides-a-manuals/fttc-installation-q4-2015
      It wasn’t an attempt at scaremongering. It’s what we’ve been told by BT as an ISP. We are supplying equipment not on the list but keep some ‘approved’ devices to send out to customer to try should we deem in necessary when they report a fault. You only have to read some other ISP’s blogs to see how pedantic BTO can be.
      If you take the time to trawl through the BT documents you will see that they are apparently trying to speed up the testing process (they currently do testing every quarter), but you are right, it will go the same way it did when ADSL started out, with ISP’s giving up on getting their devices approved.

  4. peter

    Zen supply a Thomson TG589VN ALWAYS HAVE so not sure why they would be telling you to plug in an openreach modem which they never supplied.

    • craski

      Incorrect.
      I had a new Zen phone line installed and took a business fibre tariff and they called it a “Engineer Install” and its an Openreach ECI modem that was installed, not a Thomson.

    • peter

      Zen have only ever supplied Thomson gear with VDSL home or business…
      https://www.zen.co.uk/business/broadband/fibre-optic-broadband.aspx
      anyone can hover over the “i” to see that.

      If you look back via archives of the site to last year the device pictured is also a thomson.

      The only “fibre” pacakges the device is different on is their FTTP and in that case it is not a ECI VDSL modem either. You can stop with the fairy tales now.

    • Neil

      The business product and home product pages on Zens website currently indicate it is a Thomson 589 supplied, they seem to only offer a choice of device on ADSL packages.

      I would be interested in what router they supplied you with if you were supplied 2 separate boxes (IE openreach modem and separate router). It does not seem to be a recent change in supplied gear either. Looking a year and further back on way back machine indicates it has always been a thomson device supplied, be it business or home. So i personally would be interested in the router side of things and what was supplied, what its performance/features is like. Zen is a good company if you do actually have choices on gear supplied it would also be an advantage.

    • craski

      @Neil
      I wasnt given a choice.
      They didnt provide a router, it was just the Openreach modem and annoyingly the engineer doing the install only had one modem left in the van and it was an ECI modem which is totally locked down and very difficult to get stats from and doesnt have a web gui interface to manage it.

      Providing the Openreach modem instead of their usual Thomson offering may have been particular to it being a physically new line installation with simultaneous broadband provision.

    • Neil

      Sounds to me more like a one-off mess up rather than the norm.

    • Oliver

      I also had a sim-provide, with a migration from Sky ADSL to Zen FTTC (in Dec 2015), and likewise this was an Engineer Install, and I also received an ECI Openreach modem. My Openreach engineer didn’t actually have any, saying they’d all be recalled from the engineers to a central location (due to them stopping providing the modems from March as we all know), and a local manager therefore came and dropped it off later in the day.

      Zen offered me the option of buying one of their routers if I wanted too, but equally were happy for me to use any other of my choosing.

      Suffice to say due to the lack of stats the ECI has duly been replaced and filed in the loft.

  5. Mark

    The 8800AXL is not available at the time of your review. It has been discontinued for 8900 models (yet to be released!). Suppliers don’t appear to have any stock of the 8800axl.

  6. dragoneast

    With IDnet, who do not require you to take their CPE equipment, but they will supply their own VDSL2 test modem/router for fault-testing purposes. It appears that this is necessary, at least unless an OR supplied modem is being used (and perhaps even if it is, and may be defective), and a failure shows on their remote line test, to avoid the OR charge for a consequent fault visit.

    I’ve read the SIN and believe it makes clear that OR can withhold service if the CPE breaches the Approved Network Frequency Plan or causes interference to the service of other users of the network, which has always been the case. That is the risk.

  7. Captain_Cretin

    @Neil,

    The list is not “Public” but Mark does publish it; look at the previous VDSL roundup comments for the list.

    I went through it, only a couple of the routers are still available, and then only from discount electrical places, and they are so crappy, the OR whitebox is better.

    It takes so long to get through the approval system, the routers are 2-3 generations out of date before BT approves them.

  8. Simon Zerafa

    Hi,

    Any signs that BTO might actually implement Profile 30a on any lines in the near future?

    How much of a useful feature will a routers support for this actually be in the near to medium term future? 🙂

    • Neil

      If they do then their ECI modems and HH5A AFAIK would have to be removed from their own approval list (if they are even on such a thing) as neither of those support Profile 30a AFAIK.

  9. cyclope

    @Neil, neither are fully G.inp compatible either,

    @dragoneast: Shame they don’t make the same threats to those who have sources of emi, that are injected into the PTSN line plant that cause at the least a higher error rate, But they don’t give a dam about that, I would be surprised if an isp can tell from the remote tests what modem is connected

  10. bob

    These routers my work with VDSL2 but people who have youview connected to them with a TV Packages (ie BT Sports) may have issues with it as most routers does not support igmp snooping multicast proxy

  11. Laurence

    TP link also do a VR600 which as you might exspect is a mid point between the VR200 and the VR900.

    Seems like a good buy

  12. Farakh

    I have talktalk fibre large. I used to be connected through my asus dsl n55u along with the original white box modem from talktalk, it was decent however there were too many cables/wires so I wanted a single box solution, so I purchased the asus dsl n66u. The n66u has it practical advantages but if im being honest the n55u had been more reliable connection.

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