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Virgin Media UK Trial Smart WiFi Upgrade for Broadband Routers

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 (12:30 am) - Score 52,960

ISPreview.co.uk has learnt that cable ISP Virgin Media have recently started inviting selected customers to take part in a secret new “broadband trial” (VMBW2) for Smart Wi-Fi technology, which aims to boost the overall network performance and improve connectivity to WiFi enabled devices.

At this stage we don’t know a huge amount about what is being tested, although it comes in the form of a firmware upgrade for the operator’s Hub 3.0 (SuperHub v3) cable routers and from the information we’ve seen it appears to be an implementation of something similar to, or the same as, AirTime Fairness (ATF) technology.

ATF is a kind of congestion management feature that has been around in some, but not all, WiFi networks for years and it tends to be optional (i.e. routers may disable it by default). Essentially ATF is designed to better manage your wireless network airwaves / traffic between multiple users (being fair with the sharing of capacity), although it may also reduce the performance for some users (e.g. those on slow / old devices).

Modern WiFi networks are getting better at sharing capacity and managing “airtime” congestion, thus many people may not require ATF to be enabled. However some environments, particularly busy ones with lots of users and wireless networks or devices (especially if you have a mix of older/ slower WiFi devices and newer / faster ones), may find this to be a useful improvement when enabled.

A Virgin Media Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We are in the process of trialling a number of exciting features as part of our continued investment to improve connectivity in our customers’ homes. We’ll keep customers updated once we have more information to share.”

At this stage it’s unclear whether Virgin Media eventually intend to deploy the upgrade to all of their hubs (old and new) or even if they will enable it by default. Equally, being a trial, it’s possible that the so-called “Smart WiFi” feature may never see the light of day but that seems unlikely.

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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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37 Responses
  1. Marty says:

    As one can imagine if it works. VM’s superhub would work great in router mode. In reality though it’s better to release a successor hub to spare customer’s the agony of a flawed CPU chipset and unstable connections. It’s a bit overdue in my opinion.

    1. IAN RIPPINGHAM says:

      I gather from your guesswork, that you are not furnished with the new VM Superhub. And perhaps you are already prepared for some form of disappointing issue with it.

      I have the newest Superhub, and it is absolutely astonishing, in more ways than one.

      I would suggest, that one should await the amazing features loaded theirin.
      Prior to passing negative assessment, of what you know little about..

    2. mike says:

      Ian I’ve lived with the SH3 for longer than I care to. It’s crap even in modem mode, but unfortunately it is a requirement for 350Mb.

    3. TDR says:

      Yep, sad that we still have to use the SH3 and it’s broken chipset.

    4. Ed says:

      I have been to what used to be called third world countries over the last few years, and the wifi EVERYWHERE has been better than the so called superfast VM crap that i pay for.

      My wifi continually disconnects, and when performing a speed test whilst onto the VM technical support people using an iPad and a Samsung Galaxy tablet the speed simultaneously, was either 0 or a max of 17Mpps when sitting no more than 1/2 meter from the router.

      Then they tell me that everything is functioning correctly, and they won’t send an engineer out for wifi issues! I’m done with VM and won’t touch it again with a barge pole until they openly admit they have a problem with their service and the cheap kit they supply.

      By the way, I have the very latest VM Hub 3 – it was replaced no more than 3 months ago, to replace the previous hub 3 that exhibited the same issues

  2. Andrew says:

    We received a super hub 3 from virgin yesterday in the hope it would improve a rubbish internet but it but it has not helped, still poor, rubbish

  3. Roger Leitch says:

    Sounds like a sticking plaster job.
    The performance of this hub is very poor and underpowered. Logging in or viewing anything on the hub was very very slow. Its DHCP server would take so long to connect devices that they would time out.
    Realised it was unusable as a router, so can only use as a modem. I ended up buying a separate router.

  4. Tony says:

    My hub 3 is the same.it don’t pick most of the stuff up in the house.again my daughter as up graded with virgin fasted speed and still can’t pick nothing up in the granddaughter s room.and again virgin not doing nothing about it.only turn your router off back on back off back on.same thing no change.they should look after people that looks after them.

    1. Wezza says:

      I have the same ongoing problem poor wi fi range upstairs and i was told to buy range extenders but they don’t work and when i e mailed the company they said that the siginal as to be over 50% witch is does NOT reach upstairs, I have only been a customer for 6 months and nothing but problems.

  5. Optimist says:

    I have an early Superhub (VMDG480)and it works fine.

  6. Vermin Media Need to Go says:

    Fix puma6 chipset bug and then look at these “nice to haves”.

  7. Mr Lawrence Singha says:

    Smart WiFi setting can be turn off and been out since August but I have turn it off because it’s inconvenience

  8. Tim Sneller says:

    Our VM connection is great, but the WiFi of the Superhub is not great, and it’s management tools are quite poor. I have it set to “Modem Mode” and use my own Netgear WiFi router. I also have a WiFi repeater upstairs.

    One problem is that internal walls in all modern houses are constructed with plasterboard which has a foil backing. So it is not surprising that WiFi signals are blocked as there will be a MINIMUM of two layers of foil between any two rooms, and potentially many more.

    The more centrally you can locate the WiFi, the better the reception will be.

  9. M says:

    I have this option in my hub 3.0 wireless options and had to disable it because it keeps cutting out my wireless connection completely when I need to use it and takes a while for it to reconnect. I have turned the stupid option off ever since and continued to use my usual manual channel settings which have always worked perfect for me for many years. Nothing will change the fact however that the hub 3.0 is terrible piece of hardware both visually and technically.

  10. Shane Andrew Easter says:

    I had problems with my Virgin Media yesterday no internet and no TV this morning rubbish for its money

  11. Rob says:

    We can only hope that they add support for modern VPN protocols in the upgrade.
    I was upgraded from a hub 2 and consequently lost the ability to hold phone calls over our Vodafone suresignals, and working from home over the VPN was painful, with constant drop outs and reconnects.
    It took me an age to diagnose that the problem was the hub 3 has terrible support for modern VPNs. Their support was hopeless.
    I ended up having to turn it into modem mode and buy a router that works.

  12. Nigel Crane says:

    Bought the Orbi mesh instead, use it in modem form as there is nothing super about their super hub

  13. Wezza says:

    I have the same ongoing problem poor wi fi range upstairs and i was told to buy range extenders but they don’t work and when i e mailed the company they said that the signal as to be over 50% witch is does NOT reach upstairs, I have only been a customer for 6 months and nothing but problems and getting fobbed off by virgin,
    When you phone them up all they do is fob you off with excuses and are rude and you cannot understand them as they are pakistanis and talk way too quick and don’t listed to blind word you tell them as all they do is just read off their script and what they have been told and trained to say, When they train them they must give them the a-z of pointless excuses !

    It makes me laugh the poor old sales man giving it all the big licks virgin this virgin that, then you sign up and you get this very poor after sales attitude, Its like pay your money and shut it !

    1. Scott says:

      So WiFi from the hub doesn’t work and range extenders didn’t work so maybe there is another underlying issue that maybe can’t be solved by an ISP?

  14. Azza says:

    Superhub has always been pretty rubbish. I’ve had linksys, netgear and buffalo technology routers before. They have way more control and the firewall functions and VPN features. Also Virginmedia control some of the configuration settings from their end. So no secure VPN will ever be entirely secure.

    1. CarlT says:

      Virgin Media do nothing with traffic that threatens the security of a VPN. There are no settings on the kit capable of compromising VPNs.

  15. Simon Cordt says:

    Pmsl are you kidding me the sh3 is the biggest bunch of junk out there I’ve put mine into modem mode and I’m using a £280 Asus router that actually does the job right when my 350m connection is actually working right too

  16. Vince Williams says:

    SuperHub.????? More like shittyHub.. I’ve had to invest in Google WiFi mesh routers at over £300 just to get a signal throughout my house. I’ve been a VM customer since it took over from NTL.. when I have called customer care on a few occasions about this issue, providing I can understand what they are saying, they just fob me off with BS… Why do I remain a loyal customer I ask myself…

  17. Mark H says:

    I tried all sorts with VM, I upgraded to the latest hub a while ago, wifi still useless.I had various repeaters etc, all no good. I then used BT whole home mesh wifi and had these hard wired in three points in house (you still keep VM with this system) and now I have perfect wifi.

    1. Scott says:

      You sorted your WiFi woes with a mesh system which is not a fair comparison to any standalone router. Likely at a cost to.

  18. Nick says:

    Superhub only fit to use in modem mode with a decent router attached

  19. Kelvin Smith says:

    I have to say in response to all the negative comments that my wifi is incredible, never drops out and getting over 180mb in all rooms.Thank you Virgin.

  20. Tahseen Choudhury says:

    Been a customer since NTL. Wifi had been great till i upgraded to the super hub 3.0. I don’t get a signal at all upstairs and have called their useless support team many times. They keep telling me to get their range extenders which i have to pay extra for monthly?!? If i do find a fast internet alternative i will move, or maybe upgrade the router.

  21. Mr Fruitgum says:

    I think virgin are fantastic on speed test.net on WiFi 2 rooms away I pull 310mbs. Whole house is covered even reaches near the bottom of my garden and I have a very long garden. I have 3xlaptops xbox1 and 4 mobile phones as well as TV running on it. I also have a separate router wired in that I have split the 2g and 5g channels on so I have either AC virgin or 5g 2g own. My connection drops.out about once every 6months and then only for.a.few seconds. Ps I do not work for virgin.

  22. Matthew Wyatt says:

    Well if 5g rumours are to be believed cable networks will be dead in the water there is no point trailing anything if 5g actually streams/downloads faster than 1g per second!

    1. Mr Matthew J Wyatt says:

      Mobile 5g that is.

    2. Spurple says:

      They promised all of the same things with 4G LTE.

  23. J prince says:

    I have to be honest and say our super hub is fantastic, I’ve got all ports used and and s bridge connected as we have sk many devices connected by hard wire and a hell of a lot if Wi-Fi devices connected.
    Very very rarely do we lose Wi-Fi even in the garden where we can stream music on Spotify etc seamlessly.
    My latest virgin bill shows us still as an extremely high user at around 200 gig a month and we still have very few issues.
    Speed rarely drops below 100 meg too.

    1. spurple says:

      So cute. You think 200GB a month is high :).

  24. stewart anderson says:

    sounds as though a lot of you are experiencing what are called wifi ‘blackspots’ these are an unfortunate occurrence with wifi but most homes have areas where wifi doesn’t reach due to range, interference from other devices or the house itself.

  25. Cheule says:

    Interesting that they are trialling a new firmware update yet I’ve not even had the last one. I’m still stuck on a two year old firmware. 🙁

  26. simon says:

    Our super hub 3 has bloody terrible wifi it’s always going down.

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