Gadget Zone: BT Whole Home Wi-Fi
The combination of Black Friday, the season of giving and the upcoming end of year sales will mean that many of us have far more electronic gadgets than ever before.
Improvements in technology mean that many of these will be Wi-Fi enabled and this could begin to cause dissension. Readers are probably already concerned about being woken at 6am on Christmas Day by the kids who, rather than being delighted by the latest vastly expensive new toy, are complaining that Wi-Fi reception is not good enough to use it.
Over the years, there have been a number of different solutions, each of which was far from perfect. Wi-Fi extenders are good in principle but depending on the configuration of your property, may not be particularly effective and are a hassle. Powerlines can be ideal but require quite a lot of wiring and a single electrical circuit.
The latest solution from BT (although there are rivals selling equivalents) is Whole Home Wi-Fi. If you shop around, this is currently retailing at around £150 for a three-dish system that will cover most homes.
The dual-frequency system creates a mesh of units which collectively ensure that every corner of your home can receive a strong Wi-Fi signal. In other words, this could be a dream come true, especially for those who live in large buildings with thick brick walls.
While the marketing stress has been placed on allowing users to play games in the attic, watch movies in the basement or presumably speak to their 21st-century robot lawnmowers in the garden, this could also be a serious business tool.
While a PwC will spend millions on IT infrastructure, those running small practices may well benefit from an opportunity to forget about rewiring their offices and instead introducing a universal Wi-Fi system that actually works. By putting in two or more dishes (which can be purchased separately) they could instantly overcome internet connection issues at a cost barely noticeable on a corporate level.
The product itself works with every major broadband provider. It is also so simple that even an adult can set the machine up. First of all, you download an app to your phone and then plug an ethernet cable into your router. This attaches to a circular dish (pictured). Wandering around the house or flat, you use the app to check signal strength and place the next dish in the most appropriate location based on the signal strength. If this isn’t good enough to give you full coverage, then a third dish can be added and, in theory, even more though most will find that three will do the job.
Instantly, you have good Wi-Fi coverage. The clever thing is that the system decides for itself which is the strongest signal for each device and automatically taps in. You can even plug an ethernet cable into any dish if you wish.
The testing for this review was carried out in a duplex flat with a very strange configuration across the two floors. The first dish is linked to a router in a Home Office on the top floor.
The second at the bottom of the stairs largely acts as a hub because there is a third located in a bedroom downstairs (that’s just the way the flat was set up).
Previously, the Wi-Fi signal was fine on the top floor but very weak in the master bedroom. Now, anything and everything works perfectly.
Additionally, there are lots of bells and whistles controlled via the app that will add to the attraction. First, you can control who is doing what, for example pausing or turning off a specific dish or even device, for example to persuade the children to go to sleep.
While there is a system of lights to show that the units are working properly, it is easy to turn these off, which is a boon if a unit is in the bedroom. It is also possible to pause the internet and introduce a network for guests, which can be achieved within a minute. This last could be particularly attractive for those using shared office facilities.
Overall, this is a product that does what says on the packet and is competitively priced. Merry Christmas.