Wireless wars: Virgin ignites the battle of the Wi-Fi routers

4 Aug 2016

The newest phase in the broadband wars will delve down into the nitty-gritty of Wi-Fi performance, not just broadband speeds.

A bit like that Celtic Tiger ad “I don’t know what a tracker mortgage is” most people lucky enough to get broadband of any description in Ireland couldn’t tell the difference between 50Mbps and 1Gbps. But, according to Virgin Media, it will tell you pretty quickly if its Wi-Fi is rubbish.

The long-running broadband saga is about to enter an interesting new phase where, rather than throw super-fast, lightning quick broadband speeds at the public, operators will start delving into the nitty gritty of how good your wireless signal is in your home.

Today (4 August), Virgin Media fired the opening salvo in this new phase with the launch of its new AC dual-band Wi-Fi router it calls the Virgin Media Hub.

Future Human

It is claiming that its new router provides a better experience for users who are streaming or downloading movies, TV or music.

‘These will be issued as standard for customers who move to 240Mbps or higher’

The new Media Hub is based on technology developed by Virgin’s parent company Liberty Global and is based on the latest 802.11AC Wi-Fi standard.

Unlike most routers in the market that operate at a 2.4GHz frequency, the new 802.11AC router operates at a 2.5GHz and 5GHz dual-frequency.

“When devices are closer to the modem they will get a superior 5GHz experience and the modem will intelligently switch to 2.5GHz when devices like phones, consoles and computers are farther away,” Kevin Stafford, broadband product manager at Virgin Media told Siliconrepublic.com.

“These will be issued as standard for customers who move to 240Mbps or higher and we will swap them with older modems if people have issues with them. Our plan is to get as many of them out to customers as possible.”

New adventures in Wi-Fi

Wireless wars: Virgin ignites the battle of the Wi-Fi routers

The new dual-band Virgin Media Hub wireless router

Virgin’s head of platform integration Andy May said that the new Virgin Media Hub will become the workhorse modem for Virgin in the coming years.

Stafford said that the new modem represents an evolution in Wi-Fi and outperforms rival modems issued by Eir, Sky, and Vodafone.

Virgin also said that an industry-standard test used in Cartesian’s Wi-Fi test house found the Virgin Media Hub to be the fastest Wi-Fi device, outperforming competitors on speed and range throughout the home.

Cartesian used the industry-standard IxChariot tool to generate network traffic and measure the Wi-Fi throughput performance of the modem under test.

Testing was done on Virgin Media Hub (Compal CH7465), Vodafone’s HG658C, Eir’s HG659B, Sky Hub 2, and Sky Q.  Testing was done across multiple ranges using a MacBook Pro, an iPad Air 2 and a Samsung Galaxy S6. Channel bandwidth for 2.4GHz was HT20. Channel bandwidth for 5GHz was HT80.

It found that on a Virgin 360Mbps connection users will be able to download an eight-series TV boxset in HD in less than two minutes, a movie in 22 seconds or download an album in 10 seconds.

Virgin’s claims are likely to set the cat among the pigeons as broadband providers accustom themselves and their offerings to a new metric for internet performance.


Wi-Fi image by Phloxil via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years