BT's Business Hub allows organisations to create an Openzone wireless hotspot on their premises, on a separate channel from their company network. The idea is that businesses such as restaurants, hotels, cafes and sports centres can offer free Wi-Fi access as an incentive to get more customers through the door, or generate extra revenue by selling Openzone vouchers. BT's case studies include a hotel that has seen revenues rise by 10 percent since it offered free Wi-Fi to guests. It's worth noting upfront that the maximum number of users that can log onto this separate Openzone channel — with speeds limited to 512Kbps — is just 13. This isn't a solution for large organisations.
BT's Business Total Broadband includes the Business Hub (2700HGV) with the 8Mbps unlimited 'Option 2' (£25/month) and 'Option 3' (£30/month) packages. The £12.99/month 'Option 1' package is capped at 10GB per month, and you'll have to pay £59 (ex. VAT) for the Business Hub itself.
Once it's set up and configured, BT Openzone subscribers (and others with Openzone usage credits) can access your hotspot as they would any BT Openzone hotspot. They use a Wi-Fi-enabled device to find the separate BT Openzone SSID and connect via the BT Openzone login page. Other users have to buy access time from your company, offering a new source of income. Alternatively, you could give away internet access as a way of attracting customers.
BT's Business Hub lets you set up a secure BT Openzone hotspot within your business premises. You can use it to generate revenue, or to attract customers with free internet access.
The Business Hub is a relatively attractive router — partly due to the fact that the three Wi-Fi antennas are all internal — measuring 23cm by 19cm by 4cm and weighing 640g. Encased in a silver chassis with a fetching black mesh finish on either side, the Business Hub — which costs £90.85 if bought separately — can be positioned either horizontally or vertically using a matching plastic stand. The underside of the device has four rubberised feet that help to prevent it from slipping off a table or desk and promote air flow. Unfortunately there's no dedicated power switch: the large button on the front of the Business Hub — which you'd expect to power the device — is actually used to encrypt Wi-Fi connections.
Setting up the Business Hub is straightforward, and BT helpfully provides instructions for turning off the wireless hotspot (although this merely requires you to go to a secure web page and deselect the option). The Welcome Pack includes a clearly written printed Quick Start Guide, along with a step-by-step CD-based installation wizard. You configure and manage the Business Hub via a clean and intuitive web-based interface that keeps technical jargon to a minimum.
The BT Business Hub's four 10/100 Ethernet ports provide for wired networking, and there's also a single USB (1.1) connector. There's an integrated 802.11b/g Wi-Fi access point, of course, plus an integrated broadband modem with a single DSL jack at the rear. The reset button and power connector (an AC adapter is provided) are also at the back. Two derived voice lines are supported via an embedded RJ-11 jack (useful for VoIP), and there's even 'break out' functionality (to make and receive calls from the PSTN line) plus PSTN failover functionality on the first phone line. The Business Hub is software-upgradable to support a back-to-back SIP user agent.
Standard NAT/PAT security and Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) is provided, as is WEP 64/128-bit, WPA and WPA2, to help defend against Denial of Service (DoS) internet attacks. The Business Hub's built-in Firewall Monitor service also continuously assesses threats to your network, providing on-screen notification of attacks, and giving details about blocked attacks and their sources. Updates to help protect against new threats are automatically downloaded.
The Business Hub includes Content Screening for web sites with unsuitable content and Internet Access Control, which lets network administrators restrict internet access to particular days of the week and times of the day.
BT claims that the Business Hub is 'optimised to improve ADSL 1/2 performance'. It also says that the device can minimise interference caused by other devices, such as dimmer switches or fluorescent lighting. Although this is hard to evaluate under normal working conditions, we can report that in two weeks of testing we encountered no significant wireless interference, and broadband performance was generally very stable.
Offering Wi-Fi access can add value to your business. And with BT's Business Hub you'll be able to resell Openzone vouchers to visitors and bring in some revenue, or share your bandwidth freely to attract new customers. The service is still limited to 8Mbps, and so can't compete with the dizzying 50Mbps speeds of fibre-optic services from Virgin Media. If you're looking to implement the same wireless access as a dedicated hotspot but without the cost of setting up such an infrastructure, BT's Business Hub is a solid piece of kit with a reasonable tariff structure. It's not suitable for larger organisations as it only supports 13 simultaneous connections on the Openzone channel, but it could prove valuable for small businesses.