BT’s Complete Wi-Fi solution gives you a guaranteed wi-fi signal in every room.
For many people, one of the major frustrations when using the internet at home is a poor wi-fi signal which leads to buffering, connection drop-outs and slow downloads. With connected devices now being used across the house, it’s never been more important to make sure your wi-fi network covers your whole home.
BT’s Complete Wi-Fi service is designed to give customers a guaranteed wi-fi connection in every room of their home. The service combines a next-generation Smart Hub 2 router with up to three Wi-Fi Discs that all talk to each other using mesh networking technology. This is backed by the “Complete Wi-Fi Guarantee” for a price of £5 per month if you’re a BT Plus customer or £10 per month if you’re a BT fibre broadband customer.
In this article, we’ll review BT’s Complete Wi-Fi service including the Smart Hub 2 router and the Wi-Fi Discs you’ll get included. We’ll also look at how wi-fi signal strength affects download speeds around the home, and how newer mesh networking solutions compares against traditional repeaters or range extenders.
BT Complete Wi-Fi
In a typical home, the strength of your wi-fi signal drops very quickly as you move away from the router. The loss in wi-fi signal strength is affected by numerous factors including your distance from the router, physical barriers like brick walls, and interference from other devices. This can lead to a poor wi-fi signal or wi-fi coverage blackspots in part of your home.
Normally, the quality of your internet experience depends very strongly on the strength of your wi-fi signal. For instance, a poor wi-fi signal can lead to dropped connections, buffering when you’re watching videos online and downloads taking a long time to complete. It can also worsen the battery life of devices like your smartphone and tablet as they need to work a lot harder to maintain the wi-fi connection.
The Complete Wi-Fi Solution
Complete Wi-Fi is BT’s latest product solution, designed to guarantee a wi-fi signal throughout your whole home. Available exclusively to BT Plus and BT Fibre Broadband customers, it extends a strong wi-fi signal into every room of your home. The solution consists of a Smart Hub 2 router, up to 3 Wi-Fi Discs and BT’s Complete Wi-Fi Guarantee.
The improved wi-fi signal from using Complete Wi-Fi should reduce buffering and dropped connections on devices that are further from your router (including laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, connected speakers and more).
According to BT, the typical four-bedroom home should see a 25% increase in wi-fi speeds when using a single Wi-Fi Disc from the Complete Wi-Fi service. However, in our experience, the difference in download speed and reliability can be substantially larger than this if you’re currently suffering from poor wi-fi in certain rooms.
Smart Hub & Disc Specifications
The Complete Wi-Fi service comes with a Smart Hub 2 router and up to 3 Wi-Fi Discs that can all be managed through BT’s mobile application. You’ll also benefit from the BT Complete Wi-Fi Guarantee.
When opting for the Complete Wi-Fi service, you’ll receive the next-generation BT Smart Hub 2 router. The router plugs in to your phone line creating a wi-fi network from your fibre broadband connection. The second-generation Smart Hub supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi with up to 1733Mbps on 5GHz and up to 289Mbps on 2.4GHz spectrum. The Smart Hub uses 7 wi-fi antenna to optimise performance and speed on other devices. There are also four Gigabit Ethernet sockets for connecting wired devices to your network, and a USB port for connecting and sharing external storage. The Smart Hub 2 is also future-proofed for new technology, with support for DECT and BT’s upcoming Digital Voice service.
In addition to the Smart Hub 2 router, you’ll receive a Wi-Fi Disc from BT (with up to 2 further Wi-Fi Discs being supplied if you need it). The Wi-Fi Disc requires its own power connection, but apart from that, it can be placed anywhere in your home. The disc communicates with your Smart Hub 2 to extend the range of your network. Like the Smart Hub 2, it supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi with maximum speeds of 1733Mbps on 5GHz and 385Mbps on 2.4GHz. The Disc also has a Gigabit Ethernet socket for you to connect a wired device to your network.
Both your Smart Hub 2 router and your linked Wi-Fi Discs can be managed through the My BT app. The app will help you to set-up and to optimise your wi-fi network. You can also change your wi-fi network settings through the app.
Complete Wi-Fi Guarantee
The Complete Wi-Fi Service is backed by BT’s Complete Wi-Fi Guarantee.
When you take out the service, you’ll be given a BT Smart Hub 2 and a single Wi-Fi Disc to get started. According to BT, this should already cover the majority of homes, but up to two additional discs are available free of charge if you need them. If you’re still unable to get a signal in every room of your home with three Wi-Fi Discs, a credit of £20 will be applied to your next bill.
According to BT, the Complete Wi-Fi Guarantee “covers your main home” and “does not cover outbuildings, gardens or sheds”.
Pricing & Plans
You can see the latest pricing on BT’s website by enabling the toggle to “see prices with Complete Wi-Fi”.
Over the course of a typical 18-month contract, it would cost £90 in total to add Complete Wi-Fi to a BT Plus plan and £180 to add Complete Wi-Fi to a fibre broadband plan. In our opinion, this is a fairly competitive price for having a mesh wi-fi network at home. On it’s own, it would typically cost £100 to add a BT Smart Hub 2 to your price plan. On top of this, you’d typically need to pay between £150 to £300 for a mesh networking solution (dependent on how many discs you require). With Complete Wi-Fi, you’ll get both of these included in your monthly fee.
If you cancel your BT Complete Wi-Fi service, the Smart Hub 2 will remain your property. However, the Wi-Fi Discs will remain the property of BT unless you pay an additional £30 per disc to keep it.
Wi-Fi Signal Strength & Download Speeds
The strength of your wi-fi signal is a major determinant of the download speeds you’re able to get and the reliability of your internet connection.
A poor wi-fi connection could lead to buffering whilst you’re watching videos online along with slow downloads, dropped connections and poorer battery life.
Things that will affect your wi-fi signal strength include:
- The distance between your device and the router/disc. The further away your device is from the router or disc it is trying to connect to, the weaker your wi-fi signal will be.
- Physical barriers like walls and doors can block your wi-fi signal. Certain materials are notoriously bad for blocking your wi-fi connection such as insulated walls, concrete walls and metal roofs.
- Interference from other devices and microwave sources. For instance, things like your microwave oven, Bluetooth-powered devices, cordless telephones and baby monitors can interfere with your wi-fi connection.
- Interference from other neighbouring wi-fi networks. Your wi-fi network needs to compete against other neighbouring wi-fi networks. This interference can reduce the speeds available on both networks.
Mathematically, the relationship between wi-fi signal strength and download speed is described by a formula called Shannon’s law. It probably isn’t that useful to understand all of the details of the formula, rather it’s just best to try and optimise the performance of your wi-fi network by placing your router in a central location and away from physical barriers and interference sources. Often, however, your ability to do this will be limited by the location of your phone line. In larger homes, it’s often necessary to extend the range of your wi-fi network beyond what is available from a single access point or router.
Mesh Networking VS Wi-Fi Range Extender
BT’s Complete Wi-Fi uses mesh networking technology. This differs from many other solutions (especially those that are available on the high street) which use older range extender or wi-fi repeater technology.
The following table summarises the key differences between mesh networking and wi-fi range extenders or repeaters:
|Mesh Wi-Fi Networking||Wi-Fi Range Extender or Repeater|
|Newer and more expensive technology. Has historically been used in professionally wi-fi installations (e.g. in business and public locations).||The cheaper way to extend the range of your wi-fi network. More easily available as an off-the-shelf purchase. Often used in home installations.|
|Gives maximum wi-fi speeds wherever you go, without the delays or slowdowns.||Speeds are slower when connected to a wi-fi range extender or repeater (typically about half the speed).|
|Your device will always connect to the nearest node or Wi-Fi Disc, giving the fastest available speeds at all time. Nodes combine to form a single network.||You may need to manually change the wi-fi network on your device to get the best speeds as you move around. Extenders create a separate wi-fi network.|
|Typically a more expensive solution, but now becoming more easily accessible to consumers.||Easier to purchase (e.g. on the high street), and typically a bit cheaper than mesh technology.|
Where possible, we’d recommend using mesh networking technology. There are several key advantages of this over a range extender or repeater:
- Mesh wi-fi networks give you faster speeds. Older wi-fi range extenders communicate with your wi-fi router and re-broadcast the signal as a new network. As the extender needs to receive and broadcast a signal at the same time, the amount of bandwidth available on it is drastically reduced. This leads to a slower connection when you’re using the repeater. The additional congestion from having a separate network for the repeater can also reduce download speeds further. With a mesh network, this doesn’t happen and you won’t get the slowdown of a repeater.
- You don’t need to juggle around with having multiple wi-fi networks. With mesh networking, you’ll get a single combined wi-fi network and your devices will always connect to the nearest node at all times. This gives you the maximum available download speed and performance at all times. With wi-fi range extenders or repeaters, you’ll have multiple wi-fi networks for different parts of your home (e.g. one network upstairs and another one downstairs). Once you’re connected to either network, your device will stay connected to that network until it loses coverage entirely (e.g. it could stay connected to the upstairs network whilst you’re downstairs). This means manual intervention is often required to ensure you’re always connected to the strongest network at all times.
- There’s just one network name and password for your entire home. This greatly simplifies the set-up of wi-fi on your devices. With a wi-fi repeater or range extender, you’ll need to set up multiple wi-fi networks, each with a different password on every device.
- There’s no need to have a wired connection between extenders. To avoid a slowdown in connection speed, some people use a wired connection from their router to their wi-fi repeater or range extender. This isn’t necessary when using mesh networking technology.
- It’s easier to set-up a mesh wi-fi network. In general, it’s much easier to set-up a mesh wi-fi network, especially if you have multiple extenders. Most wi-fi range extenders and repeaters will require more manual configuration.
Complete Wi-Fi is BT’s second mesh networking solution. Their first one launched in 2017 and was known as Whole Home Wi-Fi. The Complete Wi-Fi solution differs from Whole Home Wi-Fi in that your Smart Hub 2 is an integral part of the mesh network. Therefore, using Complete Wi-Fi with a single Wi-Fi Disc is equivalent to using Whole Home Wi-Fi with two discs.
For more information about the Complete Wi-Fi service, please see BT’s official web page.