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BT UK Hints at Plan to Launch a New WiFi Equipped TV Box UPDATE

Friday, November 6th, 2020 (8:05 am) - Score 16,368
bt tv 2020 logo

Broadband ISP BT (EE) appears to have publicly hinted that they are developing their first WiFi equipped set-top-box (STB) for pay TV customers, which seems set to be followed by “multi-room capability” and plans for a “seamless TV” experience – both in and out of the home (i.e. via fixed line and mobile broadband).

It’s been a year since we first reported that BT were quietly developing a new WiFi equipped STB for pay TV customers (here). At that point the operator appeared to be at an advanced stage of development and our sources pointed to a possible launch in early 2020. But the first COVID-19 lockdown put pay to that idea and set development back significantly, with BT instead launching a new range of “Flexible” TV plans without the STB (here).

At present the best STB that BT TV offers is their Ultra HD (4K) equipped YouView box (Humax DTR-T4000), although like so many other PVR-capable (Personal Video Recorder) devices on the YouView+ platform it lacks WiFi and can only be connected via a wired Ethernet (LAN) cable to your broadband router. The DTR-T4000 also lacks High Dynamic Range (HDR) support (bit of an oversight since BT Sport can do HDR).

By comparison we expect the new “Wi-Fi Recordable TV box” (this is allegedly how BT refers to it as internally) to come with WiFi, HDR and Dolby Atmos sound, among other things. But so far the operator hasn’t made any solid announcements to officially confirm this.

However, BT’s consumer division recently issued a new business briefing, which among other things appears to depict a “wireless” TV STB alongside a list of various other “future” features for a “converged viewing experience“.

bt stb future 2020

Exactly when all of these features will launch remains unclear, particularly given the latest COVID-19 related lockdown, although it seems unlikely to surface this year and we think late spring 2021 may be a more realistic bet.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We continually look for ways to enhance the BT TV experience for our customers. We currently provide a great range of TV packages which offer access to the UK’s widest choice of the very best TV shows, films and sport available – and all with the flexibility to change packs every month.

Moving forward we have some exciting plans to develop, more innovation and features to allow customers to access the content they love, including the very latest in Set-Top-Box technology. We’re not sharing exactly when this is for now, but we’ll share this news with customers as and when we come towards launch time.”

The need for a new STB is perhaps further underlined by developments elsewhere in the market. For example, Virgin Media are preparing to launch their next generation Virgin TV 360 service, which is already in UK trials, and that looks set to arrive before Christmas (here).

Meanwhile TalkTalk’s Pay TV platform, which is currently based off a similar YouView (IPTV) solution to the one adopted by BT, appears to be moving away from their current setup. The provider’s future TV STB kit – a Technicolor UZW4054TTG using JADE – looks set to be based off the Android operating system (here).

By comparison Sky (Sky Broadband) has only recently been able to add HDR to their latest Sky Q boxes, although their plans for launching a fully broadband-based (no satellite) TV solution in the UK remain unclear. At the same time online streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ etc.) continue to erode traditional pay TV models, while admittedly also creating greater fragmentation (i.e. the need to have several subscriptions, which can get expensive).

UPDATE 9th November 2020

According to our sources, the new TV kit seems likely to be supplied via Sagemcom and we think May 2021 is a likely date; this is when we believe BT will introduce HDR (their current Humax box would struggle to support that).

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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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21 Responses
  1. RegorImabitbackward says:

    I can’t help but feel sky bt and virgin are all fighting a loosing battle what with smart tv’s fire sticks roku sticks chromecasts smart phone apps etc surely cord cutters have the upper hand as for 4K not much out there at present and now tv manufacturers are introducing 8K I understand putting all this tech in one box might appeal to some people I remember when freesat first launched the sky knockers had a field day surely these services are are more about costs and not content however it gets to your tv.

    1. Wwx says:

      I absolutely love my Roku, to be honest. The “listen private” feature is such a saver in many ways. My VM TV, Ultimate Oomph, barely gets watched other than the freeview channels, part of the 360 trial too and it’s just gathering dust.

    2. Jonny says:

      The focus is going to be on live sport surely, everything else is content people are happy to time shift and watch whenever they want.

      There’s still a noticeable time delay on services such as Now TV and it would great if these platforms could adjust buffer sizes for live content (network depending) to get that down as low as possible.

  2. a welshman says:

    humax make the bt box and are releasing this
    record 4 channels while watching a fifth

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Looks like something BT might use.

    2. Anonymous says:

      The new box is a new vendor

    3. Humax says:

      What the point because tthis box is restricted to the following below:
      Plug ‘n’ Play FAT 32 formatted USB/Hard Drives, or connect to your home media server

      FAT 32 are useless limit to 4GB and 2 hours max for film!

      Humax is outdated with FAT 32 (should go for NTFS or exFAT)

    4. The witcher says:

      The new box is different, so is the remote

    5. John says:

      “FAT 32 are useless limit to 4GB and 2 hours max for film!

      Humax is outdated with FAT 32 (should go for NTFS or exFAT)”

      My current Youview box has a 12 hour HD recording in it.
      It takes up more than 4GB.

      They simply need to split recordings in to chunks if FAT32 was a limitation.

      FAT32 isn’t a limitation on a box that you can’t put your own files on anyway.

      You’re picking problems that don’t exist.

      Taking my HDD out of my Youview box and using Gparted on L8nux it has a number of GPT partitions.
      2 of them are XFS file format.

      None of the partitions are FAT32. Not a single 1.

    6. John says:

      Of your are specifically talking about USB HDD’s then…

      None of the current Youview boxes allow you to use a USB HDD.
      The USB port serves absolutely no function other than providing USB power.

      It is only there for USB firmware recovery (which isn’t available to the public as firmware can’t be downloaded manually) or for unplanned future features, but it has never been used.

      There’s nothing concrete to suggest any new box will be different.

    7. Terry says:

      I feel they may go for a technicolour Jade UHD box, as the business publication images look like that box with the circle on the front perfect place for BT logo.

  3. zxcvbnm says:

    The important question, if BT are now demanding equipment back at the end of contract I wonder if there will still be a good supply of cheap second user bt youview boxes for the rest of us? I think half the cheapskates in the country (me included) are happily using bargain discarded bt youview pvr boxes. They are pretty good, if getting slightly elderly. You can’t record the news on a streaming stick!

    1. Roger_Gooner says:

      If you’re out of contract the Youview box is yours to keep, the only reason to return it is if you’re not using it and would like BT to recycle it. But even if you don’t want it, why not either sell it or give it to a family member or friend?

  4. Sam says:

    They need to bring out a Wifi 6 router.. that would help matters.

    1. John says:

      Yes, a WiFi 6 router will help with their current tv box that doesn’t support any wireless at all…

      Not sure what the relevance there is or why you think it would help with anything related to this article.

  5. The smart guy in the room. says:

    Who really watches TV now and records programmes. The `smart` people (no pun) who own a smart TV or have a Netflix, Amazon Prime or other streaming service account do not blindly watch TV any more.
    All the talk about 4k boxes is rubbish. Most channels are still Standard Definition, or you have to pay for HD as an extra TV package, e.g. BBC Four HD is not free any more, it is bundled up with a package with other channels at a cost.
    I’ll just stick to Amazon Prime, catch up TV and streaming films / TV shows from other sources.
    Bonus, I don’t pay for a TV Licence. Result !!

    1. Craig says:

      Yes, but 4 on Demand, is not even in HD and you have to watch the adverts, although I know currently on FreeSat Channel 4 is not in HD neither. I like my news channels.

  6. The hound says:

    I am in the trial for this device, the box is a sagem, is wifi or hard wired…trial has been ongoing for a number of months…box is quite stable

    1. Terry says:

      is this the same one as Vodafone are using?

  7. Terry says:

    Could it be Google ADT-3 Developer Kit and sagem was one of a few being trialed

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