Wednesday, 28 December 2016

BT and their wifi adverts

BT have made some interesting claims regarding their WiFi, with the latest being that it is the "most powerful".

Now this is a rather odd claim as "power" is not something that is all that relevant - power (measured in Watts) is not that helpful as a measure of WiFi, indeed many smaller APs with lower power can (I believe) provide a better coverage and performance. Saying you have the most powerful WiFi is like saying your house has the brightest street light outside it. The main impact being it will make other WiFi nearby worse.

BT have made all sorts of claims before, all of them (in my view) rather suspect. The claim of most powerful WiFi, when WiFi is a radio data system to strict international and national agreed standards, is rather odd. The WiFi will have the power within the standard and legislation, like any other WiFi. It cannot in practice be more powerful.

They even published a document to justify the claim (here).

First issue: "The BT Smart Hub has superior specifications than the routers of all major broadband providers". So only most "powerful" if you ignore the smaller providers. They only look at "major" providers. AAISP have been offering Unifi APs and packs of multiple Unifi APs for some years now, but that does not count as not a "major" provider.

Second issue: The comparison compared many things but not one of them was in fact "power"! They state: "The most important aspect of wi-fi for customers is their Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) throughput.". Whilst this is actually a quite good metric, it has absolutely nothing to do with the claim of being most powerful. Power is in Watts and is not a measurement of download speed.

Third issue: They actually tested the WiFi. This is good as that is what they are claiming is most powerful, but they are selling an "Internet Access Service" using this. The tests are nothing to do with Internet access (you can tell from the speeds they measured) and for most people any speed on the WiFi that is over the speed of their Internet Access is irrelevant, so no help. Yet the advert is to sell Internet Access, not simply WiFi APs.

Basically, they are simply claiming they have a good 3x3 antennae single AP WiFi system they sell/provide with the Internet access system they sell and that it is somehow more "powerful" than other ISPs. They ignore the other (smaller) ISPs selling systems just as good. They ignore those selling multiple access point solutions which are better. They ignore all of the non ISPs also selling this equipment. And they ignore that the actual "power" is the same on these devices and their claim of most "powerful" is not actually about "power" at all but TCP throughput.

Anyway, yes, consumers want an Internet access service that is good. If BT are "most powerful" in that, why are many ISPs (including AAISP) way higher in ispreview's list? (here)


  1. There is plenty to complain about over how the larger ISPs promote themselves. But I don't think you can really complain about BT not comparing their BT performance to smaller ISPs.

    BT supply the Smart Hub as part of their service, the others larger ISPs also supply a wireless router with their service. Most customers use the supplied router and as such the router that comes with their current ISP defines how good or bad their wifi is going to be.

    If AAISP included a wireless router as part of the cost of the service, and it had better wifi performance than BT's offering, then you'd be totally justified in complaining they weren't including you in their tests.

    The wording they use however is unforgivable, using sentences like "The BT Smart Hub provides the UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal." is just misleading nonsense.

    In my case I have both AAISP and Plusnet lines, but if course I don't use the Plusnet supplied router (or indeed any dedicates router, pfSense on a VM for me) and I've got a couple of Unifi APs providing my wifi coverage ;-)

    1. That is the sort of comment I really hate "The BT Smart Hub provides the UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal." and sort of my reason for posting.

    2. If only ASA understood that "power" of a "signal" is in Watts, they could ask BT "what is the power of the BT Smart Hub's WiFi signal please?"

    3. If they cared. The ASA are usually clueless, like ofcom, but less dangerous

  2. I don't like it either. However to the people they are advertising to, power doesn't mean watts, it just means general relative strength. In that context BTs measurements and claims make some sense.

  3. My father insists on only one box in his house to handle the broadband and wifi. He thinks using anything more is just wasting electricity. As a result his wifi is crap (TalkTalk router), but he has nothing to compare it with and thinks that is just how it is and everyone puts up with unreliable wifi. After all, it's wireless so there must be some errors he says (ie. he knows just enough to be dangerous).

  4. So the BT kit is the only one that supports 256QAM not 64QAM, which therefore gives it potentially more throughput. And has 1 additional antenna pair for the 2.4 and 5Ghz ranges. Nothing to do with "power" its more about MIMO antennas than anything else.
    In the 5Ghz range one antenna is a potential 433Mb/s (equal amongst all of the routers specs as given) and BT's is an extra 433Mb/s quicker. Strange that with an extra antenna.
    Interestingly they list ac on the 2.4Ghz radios. Its a 5Ghz only standard so if implemented, its vendor specific and not a "standard".
    Its a bit harder to work out the 2.4Ghz, but seems that they list ac on that radio set. Its a 5Ghz only specification.
    I guess if it worked out - 72MB/s per channel with 33% extra for ac with its QAM256, gives a theoretical 288Mb/s - I think the theoretical is actually 216Mb/s as 2.4Ghz doesn't support ac....
    Using my non scientific eyes it looks like it is roughly 1/3 quicker in the "real world" tests rather than potentially double as their figures might suggest it capable of.

  5. I've just got back from visiting family who've been confused by this. They don't understand that adding a BT WiFi Extender to their home has done nothing for the speeds they get on ADSL2+ (around 4 Mbit/s which is right for the line length).

    Instead, they're convinced that because BT has the most powerful WiFi, the extender will improve Internet speeds throughout their house. It took some explaining to convince them that the adverts had misled them.