BT launches the UK's first mesh network for Whole Home Wi-Fi
Mesh networks are a novel way to get good Wi-Fi connectivity in buildings that suffer from "not spots". They're already available from several firms in the USA, but BT's Whole Home Wi-Fi is one of the first to appear in the UK
Wi-Fi systems based on a single router may provide patchy coverage in some homes and small offices, depending on the building's size and construction. Until recently, users have had to find their own solutions using Wi-Fi extenders and/or HomePlugs. In the USA, companies such as Eero, Luma and Google have launched multi-part systems that create a mesh network to provide good coverage throughout a building.
BT claims its 3-in-1 Whole Home Wi-Fi is the first such product to be launched in the UK*. Its three-device package is now available for £299.99.
The self-configuring system is installed and controlled using a smartphone app that helps users to find the best positions for the three small units. It also includes a traffic-monitoring dashboard that shows who is connected. The network automatically switches users to the disc with the best signal as they move from room to room.
The discs also include lights, though the brightness can be turned down or turned off altogether.
MediaTek says BT's system uses the MediaTek Adaptive Network, which was introduced at Computex 2016 and shown at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month. The devices use a MediaTek MT7621 and two MT7615 chips, one each to provide support for concurrent 2.4GHz (800Mbps) and 5GHz (1733Mbps) operations.
Each device also has four antennas: two for each waveband.
We don't know who is manufacturing BT's system. MediaTek, a Taiwanese integrated circuit design company, says: "we provide the hardware reference design with our IC and software to customers".
At £299.99, the system may be too expensive for most consumers, unless they are struggling with Wi-Fi problems. However, it could appeal to small businesses, because it's so easy to set up. Larger businesses and hotels can, or may already have, installed mesh networks using equipment from firms like Ubiquiti or Open Mesh.
BT's Whole Home Wi-Fi is being sold by BT and also by Currys and Maplins.
* Netgear's Orbi mesh networking system is already available in the UK, though the starter pack has only two devices - a router and a satellite - and the recommended retail price is noticeably higher at £399.99. Users could add a second satellite if they needed to extend Wi-Fi coverage further. Many thanks to my colleague Mary Branscombe, an Orbi user, for the tip.