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UPDATE ISP BT to Launch New Smart Hub X Router with G.fast Broadband

Saturday, January 6th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 20,853
BT Smart Hub Router 2016

Customers taking part in BT’s trial of the new ‘up to’ 330Mbps capable G.fast broadband technology, which aims to cover 10 million premises across the United Kingdom by the end of 2020, look set to receive a new SmartHub X wireless router that integrates the G.fast modem inside.

Previously those taking part in Openreach’s earlier pilot have tended to receive a separate Huawei MT992 modem (example), which would connect into the back of your existing wireless router via the WAN port. Initially we had expected that the first commercial products would follow this approach but instead it looks as if at least some ISPs are already playing with fully integrated single-device solutions for G.fast.

Visually the new Smart Hub X (HomeHub 7 if you prefer) looks very similar to BT’s existing Smart Hub router for FTTC (VDSL2) lines, except for the fact that it adds G.fast support and on the backside they’ve added an additional port for telephone connections, which sits immediately next to the RJ11 broadband socket. Otherwise you get the same 4 x Gigabit Ethernet ports and a 1 x USB socket as the original model.

bt_smart_hub_x_backside_view

The addition of a telephone port reflects what is likely to become an increasingly common requirement as Openreach moves their network toward a broadband-first approach (SOGEA or SOGFast), which in the future will see consumers buying a broadband line first and then optionally adding the phone / voice service afterwards (VoIP). Today you tend to purchase the copper phone line first (unless bundled) and add broadband later.

Customers will thus connect the Smart Hub X’s broadband port directly to their MasterSocket, albeit with a special G.fast filter (splitter) sitting on the end. At this stage we don’t know if there are any other differences between the previous router and the new X update (SmartHub Specs), although BT are keeping their lips firmly sealed.

Meanwhile the G.fast service itself remains in the pilot phase, although we’re hoping that it will enter the pre-commercial Early Market Deployment (EMD) phase around the start of spring 2018 and at that point we’d expect to see some of the first ISPs launching residential packages to the public.

Now for some pictures..

bt_smarthub_x_box_top

bt_smarthub_x_box_instructions

bt_gfast_splitter_microfilter

UPDATE 8th Jan 2018

We’ve added some new pictures of the router above. The setup suggests that BT may also be able to do their G.fast package as a self-install option in the future, although this is still a work-on-progress at Openreach’s end.

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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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44 Responses
  1. TomTom

    I would rather to have separate Huawei MT992 connected to my own router. I don’t trust PN or BT own router because it will rebooted itself and cause horrible DLM kick in with G.Fast will ruined the customer sync rate even banded profile on the line.

    • ngnfzu

      It doesn’t reset after a set period of time and telephone port isn’t activated yet the settings take you to a page on BT.com

    • Stophiding

      Give up the ghost Max.

    • Jason

      You can change name Max but until you change the way you type we know it’s you :/

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      @TomTom The 14 day re-boot issue that plagued the SmartHub was fixed a few firmwares ago.

      From what I’ve heard, the new SmartHub X is solid and performs well and I’m glad BT went with an all in one option from the get go.

  2. Jason

    I’d rather have the option of g.fast full stop – never mind whinge about the router. for me the HH6 has been rock solid (for a change)

  3. Ray Woodward

    If the “HH7” is anything remotely of the same quality of previous HH incarnations then it will be of less use than a chocolate fireguard.

    Better to stick with a separate modem and your own choice of router …

    • Jonny

      The 6 (‘Smart Hub’) and the business variant of it have been pretty solid devices for a while now in my experience. Granted they had a lot of firmware issues early on (regular reboots, freezes when booting, DHCP issues) but as far as I can tell that’s all been fixed now. They are definitely the best bundled devices of the major ISPs, though I will admit that’s a low bar to clear.

    • Joe

      HH6 does seems the best of the BT routers so far.

      Are they going to ship the battery backup with this as well?

    • Somerset

      @Joe – why would you need battery backup?

    • StevenNT

      @Somerset the Homehub X has a telephone port. If this did end up being used for landline telephone service then a battery backup would be useful in a power outage.

    • Joe

      @Somerset When they roll out FTTP they give you the HH6+separate Huawei modem & a battery backup pack so you can make calls even without power. If they want to move toward switching off copper they need to start getting kit installed and this seems a fair opportunity to start.

    • occasionally factual

      @Joe
      Openreach FTTP installs now get a combined ONT and battery backup unit.
      A bit about them on Plusnet’s forum (including a picture) https://community.plus.net/t5/Fibre-To-The-Premises-trial/New-Style-ONT/td-p/1501783

    • Joe

      Finally in the wild then…they’ve been using up the old stuff for ages

  4. James

    It would be nice if all areas could get similar speeds first before rolling out new ideas. Openreach still can’t provide more than 2Mbit to my parents who live in a 7000 population commuter village despite claiming they “will” for 5 years.

    • Fastman

      James so what village and who promised what and when

    • Kev

      So I’m in a similar position where OR completed the town 3 years ago for FTTC. We’re Kirkcaldy. P15, our cabinet couldn’t be fitted due to depth of the pavement and you wouldn’t be able to get a buggy past the new cabinet. Fair enough. We’ve had repeat failings over and over and promises it’ll be sorted. Last promise was by the end of 2017 by their Regional Manager for Scotland. I gave up last year and went to Virgin.

    • JC

      @Kev if you gave up and went to virgin then you already had an alternative provider offering fast speeds and can’t really moan. I would guess in James case his parents aren’t lucky enough to have the option of going to an alternative like virgin and hence are at the hands of Open Reach.

  5. A Builder

    I would not hold you breath. I have Gfast and it is just copper technology.

    I will write it up more fully in a few week but the experience so far is

    Plusses
    – faster than FTTC
    – lower latency than FTTC about 4/5us
    -290Mb/s is a real world speed for downloads using SFTP etc not just speediest
    -47 Mb/s is a real world speed for uploads using SFTP etc not just speediest

    Minuses
    -it is copper technology with all that it entails
    – took a DLM reset followed by a reset of the POD (I’m the only connection on it) to get progressively 97 then 200 and now 290 on a line that is not Impaired and measures 431 on the OR test meter. No sign of the promised 329 through put downstream. With the test meter reporting a line length of less than 150m.
    – OR are absolutely incapable of having or using a diagnostic flow tree. And once things don’t work switching things off and on again is the only way forwards. That includes the remote reboot of the shiny green box: yes really. As I am the only connection to it they could do that that got things to the 290. I used to think this was because OR didn’t want to recognise faults but I am now of the view that the people involved are incapable of thinking thoroughly and logically. The poor old engineer was on the phone for ages trying to get help and it was down to me to suggest that we try a different modem before wasting even more time – as it turned out the modem was perfectly OK but it seems an obvious swap out to make before assuming that the DSLAM is at fault.
    -sometimes very odd traffic shaping that makes no sense at all as there is no contention at the Gfast pod as we are the only connection

    I used to work in the world of getting 500Mhz down wires and measuring things accurately. It is not easy even in a lab.

    And I am afraid that the biggest issue is that the technology is too complicated for the people involved. Lets be honest pure fibre or fibre GPON is actually simpler to implement and test than this stuff with all the vagaries of copper.

    So there you have it in a nutshell.

    It works but it is not perfect. And now I think I know why Gavin was looking so stressed when I saw him having lunch in the club in October. The lunch was very very good so it can’t have been that………

    • GNewton

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us. At your 150m line length it may have been easier to install a FTTPoD if you really needed the higher speeds. For most people on shorter VDSL lines there won’t be much of an incentive to switch over to G.fast when the latter costs more than VDSL.

    • A Builder

      @GNewton

      I did think about that. But the FTTPoD market is in suspended animation as there is a new installation price band structure due in February. This was supposed to have been announced pre Christmas but wasn’t and got lost in the all the foot shuffling.

      So it the FTTPoD pricing is good – and it does go past a fair few houses so the £50 per passed premises would been to be a good discount and actually a good idea to get the 1st GPON (I assume) on the street.

      I do think the If BT are serious they should be engaging more with SME’s & ME’s who will defray the cost of getting a PON off BT’s balance sheet but BT should view this as a sale at discount rather than a profit source as it is such a huge benefit to BT investment stream. I own a few businesses and getting properly connected is of sufficient value to us that a £k or so is neither here nor there particularly if it is viewed as a contribution to the wider community so others can benefit.

      ie first connection on the phone pole/manhole with FTTPoD gets a very good deal.

      That way the network get built out at little or no cost to the BT balance sheet.

      The GFast thing is a waste of time and really the FTTC cards should have been upgraded for 35b particularly where the DLSAM is close to the PCP. The only places where Gfast gives any real advantage over that approach is where the PCP and DSLAM are well separated as they sometimes are due to space constraints on the footway. Or where the POD goes on the pole. I appreciate the commercial reason for Gfast is to nominally stay level with Virgin but most of the new stuff Virgin are putting in is pure fibre. But that is the fault of BT for not having started an FTTP rollout earlier and I appreciate it will absorb a lot of cash but if they had actually started some of the low hanging fruit they wouldn’t be at the cliff edge they are on at the moment.

      I know a Utility Warehouse distributor in Dorset and he is quite nervous that are Virgin have fully fibred the area he has nothing to offer against it (they essentially resell OR) speed wise. And now that area is Virgin fibred it is hard to see how BT are gong to justify overbuilding it as a priority so BT/OR just steadily loses customer base. And Virgin will probably cream off the bandwidth hungry.

      The domestic need for higher upstream is quite real, this is NOT why I have Gfast that is the business connection. We had the whole family over for Christmas and everyone was uploading video etc and it was taking a long time for 4k videos on peoples iPhones to upload, on a good FTTC, and phone to backup to iCloud when they were on charge. The upstream bandwidth requirement is here now.

    • Joe

      “And I am afraid that the biggest issue is that the technology is too complicated for the people involved.”

      While there is truth in this, some of this problem tends to be solved as time and retraining occurs. I remember the connectorised system coming in and you have some trained for it and others not.

    • A Builder

      @Joe

      Well in order to trouble shoot it you need to understand both analogue high frequency line transmission and all its quirks as well as how a digital system interacts with that and then how the transmitter receiver in the DSLAM/POD actually works. The number of people who truly understand both bits of that is truly small.

      One of the issues with the FTTC cabs, at least the ones I ground my teeth over, was that there was no built in loop back test facility. So you at least back then, could not remote test that the cards were good etc by running a test on a dummy line that was intact internal to the cabinet with a line length of less than a meter. And it took a lot to convince OR that things like dud cards existed. I know they have got more open to the idea now. But it is still not logical testing for faults.

    • AndyH

      “The domestic need for higher upstream is quite real, this is NOT why I have Gfast that is the business connection.”

      Then explain why not a single ISP is making calls for faster upload speeds.

      “The upstream bandwidth requirement is here now.”

      No it’s not. I am on a 80/20 FTTP connection and that was more than adequate for a lot of iPhones/iPads in the house over Christmas.

    • Salek

      Build and they shall come

    • A_Builder

      @ Salek has it about right.

      There may be no demand from ISP’s for more upstream from copper, partly because it is a waste of time asking for it as it is not easy to do.

      If there was no customer demand how come Gigaclear, Community Fibre, City Fibre et al are building 1Gb/s networks furiously? Simple market forces – people buy the product so the rapidly growing alt nets build more of it. If nobody wanted it they would not bother.

      I am not sure that taking 15 mins to upload a 10 min 4k video to Vimeo really is acceptable in 2018. Tim Crooks et al have clearly done the market research and think it is worth making product that does just that.

    • AndyH

      @ A_Builder

      Those networks use P2P connections rather than PON. The nature of P2P is that the upstream/downstream are symmetrical.

      There is absolutely no evidence that we all need to have faster upload speeds. This comes from the industry via OFCOM and the recent Openreach FTTP consultation.

      People make wild claims on here that we all ‘need’ gigabit fibre. When you look at the results of ThinkBroadband’s speed test reports for full fibre connections, you will see that:

      1) Most people take the lowest speed variants (when there are options)

      2) Those people on 500Mbps/1Gig services either do not have the equipment to support those speeds (most likely) or the backhaul is not sufficient to cope with the speeds. The December numbers showed that the median and mean numbers for people on BT Infinity 3 & 4 actually significantly outperformed those customers using B4RN’s service.

    • GNewton

      @AndyH: “1) Most people take the lowest speed variants (when there are options)”

      A bit off-topic, but you just answered your own question you posted a few days ago:

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/12/openreachs-g-fast-ultrafast-broadband-pilot-covers-390000-uk-premises.html#comment-185050

    • AndyH

      @ GNewton

      Most = a majoity, which more than 50%.

      There is enough of a demand for a premium speed product. It is certainly more than a “few”.

    • Joe

      There is certainly a good level of unfulfilled demand in small/micro biz who can’t justify a leased line etc but do want more than the standard retail offers.

  6. Marty

    Here’s somebody showing that new router.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hP092uuTwk

  7. A_Builder

    @AndyH

    I agree that most the network architecture is P2P with the alt nets but it is not 100%.

    Whilst most people on the true fibre alt nets opt for low packages these are often 30-100Mb/s symmetrical (say Community Fibre).

    I agree that most domestic premises don’t need 1Gb services now. But most true fibre households do have symmetric and the dominance of cloudyness, which needs upstream, at domestic level is growing.

    That being said homes do not, generally, have servers in them so it is a falsehood to differentiate between LAN and WAN traffic speeds. Almost everything on our home LAN ends up on the WAN.

  8. JC

    This Smart Hub X seems to have been issued to new BT G.fast trial customers since September 2o17 https://captainkarim.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/a-closer-look-at-the-new-bt-smart-hub-x/

    • I think they’ve actually been handing them out since around May-June 2017 but we’ve not had much solid feedback or confirmation until now, which is largely due to the pilot expansion that has just reached some of our own readers.

    • Joe

      Given the latest/upcoming Wifi standards its perhaps a shame that the router thats going to be the BT standard for a couple of years is still essentially the same as HH6.

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      @Joe Considering that the Smart Hub X has already been around for a while and is not really new I suspect that BT will release a new version next year anyway.

    • Joe

      @JustAnotherFileServer. I thought that gap last time was fair bit longer. From my experience of costs/testing/rollout; introducing a new router (even if it is a kinda HH6.5) then a new one next year seems too soon – or at least costs inefficient.

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      @Joe Considering that the Smart Hub x was developed in mid to late 2016 I don’t think that it’s too soon to see a new version in 2019.

    • JC

      @Joe they are already doing a trial for a new smart hub which article says will last for 7 months. https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/news/2017/11/bt_to_trial_next_generation_hub/

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      @JC You might need to put your reading glasses back on, it says several not seven haha

  9. PeteS

    I’ve had one of these on a trial basis for a couple of months. Ive gone back to my HH5 as these are horrendously unstable. 4/5 reboots every day. Seems they xant cope with video streaming and tcp multicast.

    AVOID.

    P

  10. Jeff Simmonds

    In the past I’ve had no success in adding a ethernet switch to add more ports
    Is this going to be possible

  11. Graham Smith

    Sorry to say that I think the features will decrease, I went from the business hub 5 to 6, and they totally screwed up a few things and took a step back, port forwarding went from being easy to a total nightmare and it was a total mess.
    A feature that is needed and still lacking to this day, reserve IP’s to a MAC address, I hate having to turn on a server wait for it to register on the network before I can then reserver and change its IP to the one I want or need it to be.
    we are in 2018 and still they can’t get this right.
    The new GUI was a nice touch but in we lost a lot of things, if this is anything to go by, I can see this new hub suffering with the same issue.
    Making it harder to work with and making networking a total mess and headache when it used to be easy on older routers.
    BT to seriously look at what other routers can do and offer, they try and state its a nearly £200 router.
    Go look at what others offer at that price point, total big difference and their hubs are not worth their price point, more like a £50 at best.
    Time for them to get a grip with the latest technology. Or people will still want to use their own routers because they are better and offer the features we want and been asking for, and been asking for a long time I might add.

  12. sean mcguigan

    Anyone know if the new Smarthub X can be put into modem mode so i can use my asus ac5300 router ?

    thanks

    sean

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