The big internet service providers (ISPs) are desperate for your business. It’s a crowded market and, as with most other utilities, there’s now plenty of choice. Not surprising then, that they are finding new ways to turn your head and persuade you to part with your cash. The latest to hit our TV screens is Sky’s WiFi guarantee. Following hot(ish) on the heals of BT’s complete WiFi and Virgin’s intelligent WiFi.
They all seem to provide the answer to perennial WiFi gripes. Poor coverage, slow speeds and signal drop-outs. But how do they work? And more importantly, do they actually solve the problem?
If you’re looking for a WiFi coverage guarantee, what are the options?
Sky: WiFi guarantee
- Costs £5/month to add the ‘Broadband Boost’ package, which includes the WiFi guarantee, to your broadband contract
- Promises “WiFi in every room of your home or your money back” (‘every room’ excludes exterior buildings & unconverted lofts)
- If it doesn’t work and you’re not getting at least 3Mbps in every room, they’ll send you a booster or an engineer will visit “to make sure your home’s set up to get the best signal and coverage possible”. If this fails to resolve the issue the £5/month fee is refunded and you get to keep the other Broadband Boost features for the remainder of the contract. (However the refund won’t apply if you’re using WiFi extenders, boosters or routers other than those provided by Sky.)
Sky’s offering is based on an upgraded router along with traditional WiFi boosters if that’s not enough.
BT: Complete WiFi
- Costs £5 or £10/month, depending on which fibre broadband package you have. (Note that although the customer owns the router, BT retain ownership of the related WiFi discs. If you decide to downgrade or cancel the service you have to return them or you’ll be charged £30 for each disc.)
- Promises “wall-to-wall coverage around your home, using WiFi discs to extend your Smart Hub 2’s signal”, “guarantee to deliver a strong WiFi signal in every room of your home” (but not gardens or outbuildings)
- If it doesn’t work you’ll get up to three WiFi discs to help with coverage. If you still can’t get a signal everywhere, you get £20 back.
Virgin: Intelligent WiFi
- Cost is free for the Virgin Hub 3 router as part of your broadband package with additional boosters costing £3/month (or free with some packages)
- Promises the latest Hub 3 router that optimises itself and adapts to the number of people and devices online around your home, plus boosters if required. “Intelligent WiFi teams up our Hub 3, Virgin Media Connect app and intelligent WiFi Boosters. Together, they help deliver our most reliable WiFi signal.”
- If it doesn’t work your only option is Virgin’s Ethernet over power boosters (also known as powerline adaptors). Unlike the other two providers, Virgin do not guarantee a certain level of WiFi coverage.
As with the Sky offering, Virgin rely on an upgraded router and additional boosters if required.
What the options have in common
These options are all based on router enhancements, along with mesh discs or boosters to get to hard to reach spots. Meaning they all rely on a wireless connection to deliver the WiFi signal.
Because of this, the providers claiming to guarantee certain levels of coverage both have a fall back position if it doesn’t work. Why? Because they know it won’t work for everyone. For example, if you have very thick walls there’s not much a booster, mesh device or even a visit from an engineer can do about that.
If you have a WiFi unfriendly environment, any number of boosting devices will not solve the fundamental problem. Namely, that WiFi isn’t a ghost-like force that will magically breeze through any material unhindered.
Is a WiFi guarantee worth paying for?
That depends. Undoubtedly, for some it will make a potentially significant improvement. However, for many others it won’t. And for the same reason boosting devices and mesh systems tend to get such ‘marmite’ reviews. They either work or they don’t. The specifics of your individual environment will have a large bearing on the results you can expect to get.
What the ISPs are relying on is that it will improve things for the majority. In addition, many customers’ past experience of WiFi is likely so poor that even small improvements can seem like a major triumph.
Is it the case that the ISPs have suddenly found a miracle cure for poor WiFi? Not really. They are just trying to find an affordable solution that will suit most people. And they’re using existing technologies to do it. Fair enough.
Is there a way to truly guarantee signal coverage?
Absolutely. But the ISPs don’t currently offer it.
The only way to get WiFi coverage where you need it is to connect wireless access points into your router via Ethernet cable. This provides a strong, stable internet connection that can then be broadcast via WiFi. So long as the access points are correctly positioned and configured, you can get virtually flawless coverage wherever you need it.
It’s how many offices, businesses, venues and educational establishments have been doing it for a while now.
You can even get to hard-to-reach areas including loft spaces and extensions. Specialist external WiFi access points can be used to cover your garden. Even sheds, garages or other outbuildings can become part of your WiFi network using point-to-point hardware.
Guaranteed WiFi coverage for Bristol & Bath homes
We install wired networks that guarantee you’ll get a strong, reliable WiFi signal where you need it around your home. And it’ll be at your full broadband speed.
Contact us today for more information and to book a free WiFi survey in the Bristol & Bath area.