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BT Aspire to be First UK ISP to Bundle WiFi 7 Broadband Router

Saturday, May 6th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 16,840
BT-Smart-Hub-3-Mockup-Based-on-Hybrid-Connect-Kit

Several credible sources have informed ISPreview that BT, most likely via EE – their soon-to-be “flagship brand for consumers“, have set themselves a target of being the first UK broadband ISP to market with a WiFi 7 (802.11be) capable router (SmartHub 4). The hope is to be ready by early 2024, but June 2024 is also mentioned.

However, it’s worth noting that there’s often a big difference between BT’s internal launch aspirations and actual availability for consumers. BT has previously suffered from general development delays and supply chain problems, while the operator’s plan to turn EE into their flagship consumer brand is also understood to have suffered some delays (we now expect this to occur around the early summer).

For example, we’re still waiting for the provider to launch their first WiFi 6 capable SmartHub 3 (SH3.1) router and new mesh system, which our sources say has slipped from April to July 2023 for consumers (small business customers may see it first in May or June 2023). The summer is also when we’re expecting BT / EE to launch services based off Openreach’s new 1.2Gbps and 1.8Gbps FTTP tiers, which seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

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As such, it may seem like a pretty tall order for BT, or indeed any major broadband ISP in the UK, to then be expected to get a WiFi 7 capable router out of the door by mid-2024. The 802.11be standard for this isn’t even expected to be finalised until early 2024, thus we’re taking the provider’s internal aspiration for the SH4 project with a pinch of salt. But there are some reasons to believe they can do it.

NOTE: BT / EE have been conducting customer trials of their imminent WiFi 6 capable Smart Hub 3 / Smart Hub Plus and Mesh WiFi kit for several months (here).

One of the reasons why the SH3.1 (this is how it’s referenced internally, not as 3.0) has taken a bit longer than expected is because BT seems to be developing their own in-house Operating System (OS) and Firmware for the new router, which is known as Project Indigo. Assuming it does get launched this summer, then they plan for the follow-on SH4 to have feature parity with the SH3.1 (i.e. they’ll just add WiFi 7 to it).

The SH4 will then be offered to both new and existing customers on EE as a “premium product“, while the SH3.1 seems likely to become their standard router for everybody else (eventually). But we expect that rival ISPs, particularly smaller players, may now aim to bring a WiFi 7 device – using the final spec (not a draft) – to market before BT / EE. But the difficult here is often with negotiating the right balance of supply and unit costs for bleeding edge kit (i.e. it can be expensive if you don’t have economics of scale).

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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32 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Tim says:

    The best advantage of WiFi 7 is that it can do band aggregation. Similar to LTE carrier aggregation. If WiFi 6E wasn’t enough bandwidth for you then 7 will satisfy you

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      How many devices will even use 6e by that time, never mind 7?
      Ok, future proofing I can kind of understand, but I think this is all about the look at our new shiny router, you will get something you are not going touse if you come to us.

      As for BT having their own Operating System and Firmware, I hope it is better than what they have now on their hubs.

    2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      ISP own brand firmware is always a road to ruin. VM hubs have run their own firmware for years, and its buggy when released, and then they seem to add in one new bug for each one they squash in a new release, as well as regularly messing up customer’s wifi settings.

      Presumably BT’s marketing dweebs thought it would be the best thing since sliced bread to have the BT brand running through the interface; Some bod in procurement found they’d avoid a few pence in software licence fees by homebrewing the firmware. A work experience kid in the tech team assured them that it was really, really easy to code your own firmware, and you could build it from open source things that were free. And so the company decided that they’d write their own code, being as how they know everything there is to know about anything.

    3. Avatar photo JamesBand says:

      @Ad47uk

      Wifi 6 has benefits across the network even if the device itself is not connecting on Wifi 6 (i.e. for Wifi 5 clients as well) in terms of stability, latency etc on the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks.

      Wifi 7 will add further benefits to the whole network on all three bands (2.4Ghz, 5Ghz and 6Ghz) so will benefit old clients in terms of stability, latency and range.

      Wifi 6E however is specific only to the 6Ghz clients. That is why it likely isn’t that useful to people unless they have specific client devices that can use that band and live in an open plan area with few thick walls.

      Wifi 7 apparently will be a game changer not only in terms of bandwidth, but also in terms of the overall network performance, range, and latency in particular. I thought it was going to be certified next year, but it’s great news if it comes earlier.

    4. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Maybe wifi 7 will be a game changer, but the actual history of 802.11 wifi has been generation on generation actual improvement but accompanied by rapidly increasing differences between theoretical and real world performance. I’d expect wifi 7 to follow this trend, meaning that it’ll have a lovely headline speeds of “up to 46 GBps” plus all the flannel about lower latency and bandwidth management, but the actual real world difference between 6 and 7 (and even 5 and 7) will be barely noticeable for anybody using a competent modern router or mesh.

      I’m all in favour of the development, merely observing that the reality of “transformational” progress is invariably far more modest.

    5. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @anonymous

      i kind of agree with you about IPs own brand firmware, the plusnet hub was not bad, it was pretty basic, but that is a good thing in some ways,. The BT version of it was full of bloat that was better off disabled. Smart wireless, I think it was or is called, more of a pain than anything else.

      I had a Zyxel from Plusnet and i thought it was a standard Zyxel firmware until I tried to use the Voip ports.
      The zyxel decided to die and I went back to my old Tp-link router and openreach modem, or tried to, but it just could not cope with the amount of Wi-fi devices I have got. so I had to use the Plusnet home hub 1 for a while. Around 2 months ago I got myself a new TP-link router and now connected that to my old Openreach modem. it works fine apart from not being able to see what the line is synced to.
      I did try to unlock the modem, it is a Huawei, but that failed, 🙂 Thankfully it did not do any damage to it.

      @JamesBand says:

      Ok, I have heard that Wi-fi 6 makes a difference to Wi-fi 5 devices.

      I would say 97% of my devices work on 2.4Ghz anyway, just my phone and alexa devices use 5Ghz, the mac is wired.
      I doubt very much if I will have a Wi-fi 7 device for many years.

      We will see if Wi-fi 7 is a game changer, been told that so many times, I still get better signal though the house with 2.4Ghz wi-fi

    6. Avatar photo Icaras says:

      @anonymous Did you get sacked from BT or something? I just can’t fathom your hatred for a company. Absolutely bizarre behaviour.

  2. Avatar photo Alan Smithee says:

    I have a TP-link wifi 7 router (no reviews around yet?) And although there are no WiFi 7 clients and it is as buggy as anything, all my WiFi 6 and 6e gear fly on it.

    Shame I cannot take advantage of it due to lack of multi-gig in UK.

    1. Avatar photo WibbledOff says:

      Are you a time traveller? That router isn’t going to be released from TP-Link until 2024 lol.

    2. Avatar photo John says:

      @wibbledoff
      Tp link have already released Wi-Fi 7 routers in USA such as Be800 so the OP has most likely purchased from outside UK eg via Amazon US.

  3. Avatar photo Howard Pitfield says:

    Vodafone already offers this. I have a hub with 7.

    1. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      The Vodafone hub is 6e I believe. Not the same thing.

  4. Avatar photo Alan Smithee says:

    Wibbledoff – no some of the BE series are already available for sale in various markets. I got mine from Europe and they are put in the US.

    Don’t take my word for it – people are discussing them on the TP-link forums on Reddit.

    1. Avatar photo WibbledOff says:

      They are not wifi 7, the only discussions on the forum is to do with the release event that’s later this summer.

    1. Avatar photo WibbledOff says:

      That’s a prerelease and not an official wifi 7 router, it’s the same when wifi N did a prerelease and people then had to purchase a new router to get the full standard. From memory it was Belkin who did that.

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Accroding to Tp-link it is coming soon. Looks expensive.

      https://www.tp-link.com/uk/home-networking/wifi-router/archer-be900/

      I am happy with my Tp-link Archer AX53, may only be Wifi 6, but it seems to do a good job, well when plusnet sorts itself pout.

  5. Avatar photo Dave says:

    I’d have to agree with WibbledOff. Last I heard, the standard was not due to be ratified until early ’24 and if IEEE behave as normal, that will be closer to early’25. Anyway, when are you people going to learn that a real network involves wires?

  6. Avatar photo Obi says:

    Getting Wi-Fi 7 out early would be a good way to future proof the router if we go years without a follow up as with the SH2. I mean, even the iPhones don’t even have 6E.

    1. Avatar photo James Band says:

      @Obi

      I agree. I would think economies of scale to make Wifi 7 routers is the way to go. Perhaps various vendors on the computer/phone market are waiting for Wifi 7 since it is a material advancement over Wifi 6 with overall network benefits, rather than only being about one particular band (6Ghz in the case of Wifi 6E).

      Wifi 6 has benefits across the network even if the device itself is not connecting on Wifi 6 (i.e. for Wifi 5 clients as well) in terms of stability, latency etc on the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks.

      Wifi 7 will add further benefits to the whole network on all three bands (2.4Ghz, 5Ghz and 6Ghz) so will benefit old clients in terms of stability, latency and range.

      Wifi 6E however is specific only to the 6Ghz clients. That is why it likely isn’t that useful to people unless they have specific client devices that can use that band and live in an open plan area with few thick walls.

      Wifi 7 apparently will be a game changer not only in terms of bandwidth, but also in terms of the overall network performance, range, and latency in particular.

    2. Avatar photo Dbdbje says:

      Well the 6E SH3 will be out soon

    3. Avatar photo Obi says:

      @James Band

      Yeah, and if anyone’s gonna can utilise economies of scale it will be BT. Interesting theory on mobile OEMs preferring to jump straight to Wi-Fi 7, I’m aware the standards have not been finalised but I hope the improvements you mention come to fruition, could truly be a major advancement.

  7. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    @Dave, why do you say a real network involves wires? Ethernet is more secure and more stable and I must admit I prefer Ethernet, but a network can involve radio waves.

    1. Avatar photo Dave says:

      Bait. I knew someone would be daft enough to rise to it.

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @Dave, blast and I fell for it 🙂
      But you never know around here

    3. Avatar photo Notmyopinion says:

      You can do IP networking with homing pigeons, you know? Admittedly, it’s not that quick. But a group in Scandinavia got it working a few years back, I seem to recall. There is an “official” RFC document and all…

  8. Avatar photo Robin Smith says:

    Let’s hope the new ID is OpenWrt!

  9. Avatar photo James says:

    How are you getting this information?

  10. Avatar photo Zakir says:

    Dont care about wifi 7 as many devices are not wifi 7 compatible I appreciate that BT are future proofing so it can be compatible to devices that sopports wifi 7 or has wifi 7.

    Cost wise to be with BT is expensive then alternative broadband providers who have there own infrastructure.

    Openreach has lost the plot very slow in rolling out FTTP in London there are the largest provider in the UK we know no FTTP yet im with Hyperoptic.

    Dont BT see they are loosing in London to alternative broadband providers who have there own infrastructure.

    1. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      For someone who’s so happy with Hyperoptic you complain an awful lot about not having Openreach FTTP available.

      I don’t have Hyperoptic available but I’m not going to post on every news story about them complaining that I don’t have their service.

    2. Avatar photo Obi says:

      @XGS Is On Yeah, I would just forget about it. Having competition is nice, but if I’m with a good provider on FTTP speeds for a fair price, I wouldn’t think twice about broadband until the situation changes.

      Leave the complaining to those with OR ADSL as their only option, aka me!

  11. Avatar photo greggles says:

    The problem with this is that client devices are miles behind.

    You can get 6E (and I assume 7 when released) for PC m.2 wifi, it will be available on newly released laptops but many older laptops whitelisted to older spec wifi.

    Games consoles the biggest guzzlers of bandwidth will still be on wifi 5.

    New smartphones will be wifi 7 capable, but a smartphone doesnt need that bandwidth.

    I miss the days when ISP supplied kit wasnt cutting edge and geeks with 3rd party AP’s had 5ghz to themselves instead of now 10-20 AP’s sharing it in urban areas.

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