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First Hints of Future WiFi 6 BT SmartHub 3 Broadband Router UPDATE

Sunday, February 7th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 43,968

A number of established sources have informed us that UK ISP BT are currently putting the finishing touches to their next generation SmartHub 3 (SH3) broadband router, which we’re told will feature support for the latest multi-Gigabit speed WiFi v6 (802.11ax) standard – possibly the first of the major providers to do so.

The previous Smart Hub 2 launched in 2018, complete with stronger support for their FTTP and G.fast based ultrafast broadband products (here), although its specification wasn’t actually all that different from their original Smart Hub, which first launched all the way back in 2016 (here). Suffice to say that BT’s top end router would benefit from a significant update to help it stay competitive.

As we understand it, the operator’s hardware suppliers were asked to bid for the device roughly a year ago and then BT had to spend time on the development side. We suspect that COVID-19 may have since caused some additional delays. The proposal was also more for a lozenge (rounded) shape, rather than the squarer looking SH2 design, which would be more in keeping with their Wi-Fi Repeaters and new 4G Mini Hub.

Sadly, we’ve yet to see a solid date for the SH3 to launch, but given the pressure on resources from COVID-19 – as well as various wider supply problems with CPUs etc. – it wouldn’t surprise us if it surfaced much later in 2021.

A Spokesperson for BT said:

“Smart Hub 2 is our most advanced home broadband router, providing fast speeds throughout the home via our new Full Fibre service, as well as integrated support for Complete Wi-Fi and Digital Voice. As the UK’s largest broadband provider, we continually review new, innovative ways to deliver the best in-home connectivity, and our customers will be amongst the first to hear when we launch something new.”

However, assuming BT do get their WiFi 6 kit out this year, then they might not be the only major ISP to support the standard. We think TalkTalk stands a good chance of doing the same with a future replacement for their Wi-Fi Hub router, although we’ve yet to see any details. Meanwhile it seems unlikely that Sky Broadband and Virgin Media will have a new model out this year, not least since their latest kit is much more recent.

UPDATE 8th Feb 2021

Some readers also queried whether the SH3 launch would be accompanied by upgraded kit for their mesh-based Complete Wi-Fi system. The answer to that, so far as our sources can say, is yes. A new “Ultrafast Complete Wi-Fi” system will become available with WiFi v6 support. In terms of the launch date, we expect to hear something around the middle of 2021, but it’s too soon to be confident of any specific dates.

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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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32 Responses
  1. P says:

    Will be interesting to see what they do here, apart from the issue of Smarthubs getting IPV6, they are pretty good for ISP routers. If they also offer WiFi 6 Mesh disks like the Smarthub 2 it will be even more interesting. I haven’t seen any WiFi 6 mesh systems I like so far. The Amplifi Alien one seems alright, but it’s very expensive. And they are big units, I beta tested the Alien single unit in the U.K. but sent it back as it’s range just wasn’t quite enough.

    1. WiFi 6 abuser says:

      Well that is just how AX is.

      You’ll need lots of antennas – can’t see WiFi 6 routers being smaller any day soon.

    2. P says:

      Well there are smaller WiFi 6 units, look at the Eero, small enough and has WiFi6 Mesh, only it’s not available in the U.K. maybe Google will launch a new Google Nest WiFi with WiFi 6. They don’t need to be offering speeds of 7GBPS.

    3. TechTom says:

      Eero are very much available in the UK and have been for many months. I brought a 3-pack for £150 off Amazon last May and have been very happy with it. Full house coverage, USB-C power input. Very simple install and it more or less just does the job. Not good for these who like fiddling with their gear, but I have enough of that in my day job, prefer peace and quiet at home.

      I wouldn’t pay full price or more than 150 for them but they are decent bits of gear. No need for eero Pro for home use, the standard Eero is good enough.

    4. JH says:

      Whilst you might be tempted to upgrade to wifi 6 as soon as possible, be warned that its highly likely to be quickly surpassed by wifi 6e, a much wider frequency.

      ASUS RT-AX89X 2.2GHz is due for UK release any day now, sadly whilst fairly compact, only wifi 6.

      Asus announced their tri-band gaming wifi 6e, but again don’t expect that to be released for sometime yet. With a likely price tag of £500 ish it might take some justification, but worth the wait.

      Much like people now buy their own mobile phones, due to isp’s lagging behind on technology, more & more people will just invest in their own routers before long.

      Asus routers are now largely AiMesh compatible, so able at a later date to form part of your own mesh system, & therefore able to cope better with hosting more items & grow with your requirements. A decent way of using your existing tech.

    5. I says:

      Most things that are “wifi 6” aren’t 6e though, so until that feeds into phones and other products then there are limited benefits of paying over the odds for it on your router. £500, frankly, is an obscene price to pay unless you’re buying actual enterprise equipment from the well known big names. Spend it on your PC instead.

      Besides, if you truly need top speeds and low latency between devices – you will never beat a cable. Why spend tons of money trying to get wireless to imitate it?

      You’re possibly overstating the market for third party equipment – for most, as long as it works, then the ISP supplied stuff is absolutely fine (and more importantly, it’s free to the customer)

  2. Jamie Simms says:

    I really hope that BT will allow the separation of Wi-fi bands on the new hub as it makes it a lot easier to set up Sky Q with BT broadband as this likes to be on 2.4ghz. I also found it helpful to be able to put low usage items like Alexa,Google Home,Apple Watch,Fitbit etc on this frequency.

    Therefore allowing 5GHZ for Smart TVs,Phones and laptops. I don’t expect this change will happen as I understand that the reason this was removed from the current hub is that it would break BT whole home solution and they want to do the home network balancing themselves .

    I am not sure if this is still on the agenda but I know previously EE & BT were trying to make some changes on the hubs on how they handle Wi-fi calling on mobiles for EE & BT mobile customers as this uses the same IMS servers as BT home digital voice home service with changes they were trying to make would mean the mobile calls would need to traverse the internet less as it could all be sent straight from the router the same as a digital voice landline call.rather than creating a new IP sec connection for mobile calls so if you had three EE/BT handsets there would just be one IP connection . It was all very technical when it was explained to me and the last I heard was that the current router worked but struggled at times with a newer chipset likely to make a difference

    1. Home hub user says:

      You can separate 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands since the Home Hub 5 btw.

    2. John says:

      “You can separate 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands since the Home Hub 5 btw.”

      The inclusion of the word “since” suggests you can do this on all models after the HH5.

      You can’t separate the 2 SSID’s on the newer Smart Hub 2.

      The Smart Hub 2 is required for BT’s VOIP (Digital Voice).

    3. I says:

      band splitting seems like a snake oil “cure” that people pass around without consideration as to whether it is truly necessary.

      I’ve never felt that I wanted to do it, even when I’ve had equipment that allows it. My 5GHz devices prefer that band and the 2.4GHz only stuff stays there. The equipment manufacturers have caught up with the reality that most networks are not “split” and have tuned their selection algorithms to cope

  3. A welshman says:

    Still waiting for the new tv box

    1. Youview abuser says:

      Youview is long dead bro I doubt they’re back in the TV game.

      Their sister ISP plusnet got rid of them. It’s likely BT will follow unless they make their own platform.

    2. James™ says:

      I do doubt it will be Youview, however I don’t think BT will get rid of TV all together so they must be working on something.

    3. Bubblesthefish6 says:

      Maybe Netgem? I know quite a few ISPs use them now. Notably origin broadband now offer Netgem. Just a thought ☺

    4. John says:

      “It’s likely BT will follow unless they make their own platform.”

      Youview is BT’s platform, they part own it.

      I’ll be surprised if BT’s next TV box isn’t a 4k HDR Youview box.
      Not quite dead yet imo

  4. Jamie Simms says:

    Home Hub User- The smart Hub 2 does not allow you to run 2.4 & 5 GHz has separate networks and different passwords this was available in the original Smart Hun.

    All that you can do is change the Wi-fi channels they use in each band and turn off a band

  5. Kenneth Mundell says:

    Hopefully they will add a 2.5gbit ethernet network port for future upgrades in the network past 900mbit.

    1. James™ says:

      I hope 2.5Gb networking becomes more normal for home use. TP-Link are releasing 2.5Gb non managed switches soon.

      But I don’t think more than Gigabit broadband will be widely available any time soon.

    2. GaryW says:

      I’d rather see more symmetric upload versus download speeds first. Working from home, write performance is just as important as read performance. 1 Gb/s symmetrical would do very nicely.

  6. Kenneth Mundell says:

    You never know. If you look you will see Virgin media already are testing 2gbit+ speeds and are looking all the way up to 10gbit for the future. That’ll be a while though and BT will have to compete.

    1. James™ says:

      Virgin Media’s “2gbit+” is still using their superhub 4 that only has 1Gbit LAN ports, even their 1.1Gbit package can’t be fully harnessed if you want to use your own router device

    2. Kenneth Mundell says:

      I know thats why i want BT to add a 2.5 gigabit ethernet port to their new hub so it can handle the faster speeds. Not only that, media centres that people build sometimes have a 2.5gb port for file transfer. If you check the latest motherboards starting around £220 on Scan.co.uk they come with 2.5Gbe ports. So i guess it makes sense for BT (and Virgin Media) to do this upgrade on their hubs.

    3. James™ says:

      However Openreach would need to update the ONT as well.

  7. Sam says:

    It would be nice to see a complete redesign as the SH2 is butt ugly. Atleast the EE variant of SH2 is more attractive to have sat on a shelf! Also to separate the bands again would be useful seeing as you can do it on the EE smart router which is a rebranded SH2

    Also the ability to see if G.INP is on would be nice!

    1. John says:

      BT are in no hurry to show more advanced dsl stats.

      If they show if G.INP is enabled the (roughly) 25% of users on ECI cabinets would start asking why their modem says it’s not enabled.

      It’s the very reason they don’t show things like error counters.

      You get idiots ringing up saying I have hundreds of FEC every minute, when in fact 100,000+ FEC a minute is fine (in simple terms, FEC are errors that are corrected before they happen).

      The more info they show you, the more support calls they receive.

    2. CarlT says:

      +1. The people on forums fixating over their DSL stats made me simply stop using them.

  8. Adrian says:

    I plan on upgrading to WiFi 6e later this year,

    I’m looking at the tplink ax206 router as it has almost everything I need, 10Gb SFP+ port, 10GBaseT copper port (could have done with 2), plus a few Gigabit ports to get around the house for various thin clients

  9. Meadmodj says:

    My view is that BT Consumer is following a closed system strategy, increasingly integrating what are becoming proprietary products, voice and, as previously, concentrating on their broader user base requirements.

    While they have purchasing power they are unlikely to add functionality that would increase overall costs until the relevant element comes within cost. Better processors and chipsets are more important to cope with increased firmware overheads.

    If BT Consumer’s standard provision isn’t suitable then surely BT is the wrong ISP choice.

    1. CarlT says:

      People can always buy their own if 802.11ax is inadequate.

      They’re giving the stuff away free. Are you expecting 10G SFP+ cages? Experts with experience most of us don’t have presumably do a cost:benefit analysis.

    2. CarlT says:

      I just read back.

      ‘and, as previously, concentrating on their broader user base requirements.’

      They’ve millions of customers. This is quite literally the only way for them to viably progress.

      It’s very easy for people to replace their kit with something else and most of those who do will likely have a la carte services.

      My BT circuit terminates on something with just a little more power than a BT Hub.

  10. Just Cycling says:

    Any further news on potential release dates of SH3?
    I wish to order FTTP but having a few devices with Wifi6 would prefer my router to have this especailly as BT seems to link you to a 24 month contract.
    If not I assume I could plug in my own Wifi 6 router to the ONT?

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