back to article What a mesh: BT Whole Home Wi-Fi users moan over update

Three weeks after a firmware update to BT’s home mesh networking solution, customers are still complaining that they have to constantly reboot their devices, with some being unable to connect at all. One Reg reader who alerted us to the issue said the patch had "borked [their] Whole Home Wi-Fi mesh solution". BT’s customer …

  1. Korev Silver badge

    Dumb question?

    “We're working our hardest on a fix for the issue you and some other customers are experiencing and to release an update as soon as possible, following our release process.”

    Why can't BT just rollback to the previous version until they've fixed this one. For those whose systems are unstable rather than bricked this would probably help them a lot.

    1. Gordan

      Re: Dumb question?

      It's a major achievement for their customers that they even acknowledged that there is a problem.

      BT Hub 5 got a firmware update back in July 2016 that made it unstable. It would reset under load. I was setting up backups at the time, and the uploads to the cloud would never complete because of this. After arguing the toss for a few months they sent me a replacement BT Hub 5, and that worked great for a week - until it, too got the same firmware update, and started resetting 100+ times per day.

      After all this, I got one of the L2 support engineers to finally confirm there is a firmware big, and that they are working with people who work on the firmware to resolve it, but they I got a call back from his boss who flat out denied everything the one and only helpful person they have working for them told me. His advice? Get a standalone VDSL modem instead of using the one built into the BT Hub 5, but that was still totally not an admission of a problem (because there would be more people reporting it if I wasn't imagining it, and the 100+ hub resets per day they could also see from their side were obviously just a shared illusion).

      The only bit of good news in this story is that my contract term was coming to an end so I took the opportunity to mentally note to NEVER sign up with BT again and switched to a different ISP.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dumb question?

        His advice? Get a standalone VDSL modem instead of using the one built into the BT Hub 5

        Quite honestly that was probably the best advice you'll ever get from BT support - other than adding "and then ditch the Hub 5 and replace it with a decent router/AP of your own".

        1. Gordan

          Re: Dumb question?

          "ditch the Hub 5 and replace it with a decent router/AP of your own"

          The problem with the HH5 isn't the hardware. The hardware is actually pretty good. The problem is their customized firmware after a specific version. Never had any problems until that July 2016 firmware update. Before my contract was up I flashed it with OpenWRT (soldering required to get serial console up), and that worked just fine.

        2. Dabooka

          Re: Dumb question?

          RE: Replacing Home Hub with standalone modem

          I learned this lesson a longtime ago, the bundled hardware is always so limited it's not worth bothering with. As far back as those Speedtouch(?) ADSL things (the stingray green ones) I've bought third party and configured it. Even easier now than it was back then, except moving to Virgin means it's now a router rather than a modem but hey ho.

          The claims these companies make and fail to deliver is nothing short of criminal, IF that's what is a deciding factor in the customer signing up. BT hardware not performing as promised is nothing new and it;s about time they were taken to task

      2. tony72

        Re: Dumb question?

        The only bit of good news in this story is that my contract term was coming to an end so I took the opportunity to mentally note to NEVER sign up with BT again and switched to a different ISP.

        Although BT is not high on my list either, I'm not sure they are that much worse than any other big ISP, on the actual ISP front. I think the main lesson you should take away from that experience is do not use the ISP-supplied router. I've also had multiple bad experiences with firmware updates to a BT Business hub causing various problems, resolved only by junking the BT kit and replacing with a third party router. But was it worse than my Virgin Superhub 3 at home? It seems to be standard policy amongst ISPs to foist crappy kit on you, and then make matters worse by forcing sketchy firmware updates on you on their schedule that break things and are difficult to block or roll back. Never again if I can help it.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dumb question?

        Indeed... It was well known to the engineers that the HH3 type A was a pile of sh*t, but BT continued to send out type A's as replacements for many years.

        I was lucky to grab a type B from a friend who no longer required it. It was an improvement, and didn't crash quite as easily, but it still wasn't up to any serious use.

        Eventually it went the way of all BT routers, into the bit box, and replaced by a Draytek, which in turn has been ousted by a Ubiquity router as my network evolved into some kind of monster :D

      4. boltar Silver badge

        Re: Dumb question?

        "It's a major achievement for their customers that they even acknowledged that there is a problem."

        Its a major achievement that they've even got any hardware. BT failed to deliver a standard router over the course of 2 months last year after we took up the offer of a free trial, with excuse after excuse from the useless "help" desk. In the end we gave up and stayed with virgin.

        Openreach should be hived off from BT - the management of the latter is utterly inept and simply don't seem to give a shit.

        1. Gordan

          Re: Dumb question?

          "Openreach should be hived off from BT - the management of the latter is utterly inept and simply don't seem to give a shit."

          THIS!

          We would all be a lot better off if Openreach was freed of the dead weight that is BT.

      5. Usermane

        Re: Dumb question?

        Any chance of install an open source firmware?

        1. Gordan

          Re: Dumb question?

          "Any chance of install an open source firmware?"

          Yes, you can put OpenWRT/LEDE on the HH5. Some soldering is required to get a working serial console, though.

    2. tfewster Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Dumb question?

      But they're secure now, why would you want to rollback?

  2. K

    I considered these..

    As they came recommended, are sold at a relatively good priced compared to other Mesh-WIFI products but still cost £200-30).

    Thankfully, whilst I was dithering with placing the order, a colleague had his Netgear Orbi blow up, I then realized that there was no resiliency and a waste of money - So in the end, I spent a little extra and brought Ubiquiti Unifi (Which is awesome btw!).

    1. Greebo

      Re: I considered these..

      I fitted my house out with Unifi gear (a couple of UAP-AC-PROs and USG-3), along with a Draytek 130 VDSL modem. Not necessarily the cheapest products available, but utterly worth it IMHO.

      Full, strong coverage throughout the house and garden, and the only issue I've had in the past 18 months was with IPv6, and that's because I had misconfigured it.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: I considered these..

        a couple of UAP-AC-PROs and USG-3), along with a Draytek 130 VDSL

        Hmm.. likewise.

        was with IPv6, and that's because I had misconfigured it

        Are you sure that you are not me? I keep flirting with doing IPv6 but every time I try my brain bluescreens..

  3. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Can one really expect any better from BT? Going on the abysmal performance and poor reliability of their "home hubs" (can someone tell me why they're not called routers?), I am not surprised at all. Furthermore, I'm not surprised at the total ineptitude of their team to fix the problem in a way that makes customers feel even remotely valued.

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: can someone tell me why they're not called routers?

      For the same reason that, if one's SO complains about the quality of their WiFi to EE, EE will sell one's SO a "booster". Fortunately I arrived in the nick of time to re-purpose all of the old kit from previous

      ISPs she'd been with. She now has decent WiFi all around the house.

  4. Missing Semicolon
    Unhappy

    BT cannot fix the problem

    .. because obviously BT are merely a customer of a 3rd-party software house behind the outsourcer for the Home Hub.

    Entirely by design (for such things cost money) there is no direct connection or liability between BT and the software house.

  5. adam payne Silver badge

    A BT spokesperson told The Register: “We’re aware that a small number of customers have been having problems with their Whole Home Wi-Fi. We’re working to fix the issue as quickly as possible.”

    Isn't it always a small number of customers

    1. K

      "We’re aware that a small number of customers"

      Rough translates as "not enough to really bother us, or worth considering a priority... we'll fix it as and when we stop licking our own balls!"

    2. ianlash

      It would be a bigger number if it would allow me to register on their forums to complain! Prevent people from registering and you keep the numbers small.

      Turned mine off and bought a Ubiquiti device. Very happy now, and so is the family.

    3. Zippy's Sausage Factory
      Meh

      My guess it that could be every single person complaining and it would still be "a small number of customers", because they daren't publicly admit anything that someone might want to use in court against them.

  6. Robert Jenkins
    WTF?

    BT firmware update scheduling

    At least the _tried_ to get an update to work for that system - and now have to keep working on the problem.

    Home Hub 5 owners are still waiting for the promised "Early 2017" update to enable IPv6...

    1. Anonymous IV
      Thumb Down

      Re: BT firmware update scheduling

      > Home Hub 5 owners are still waiting for the promised "Early 2017" update to enable IPv6...

      And of course these owners are convinced that the IPv6 support will work perfectly the instant it is available!

      Thank heaven that the BT HomeHub IPv4 support is so stable and complete, and could be used as a fall-back...

  7. Sam Liddicott

    Mine fails to even notice some devices on the network. They can use the network but don't show up in any admin screens as being on the network.

    Also, although it claims to have timed blocking rules, but there is no default blocking rule, so any blocked person simply changes their mac address to avoid blocks.

    1. Anonymous Cowtard

      "Mine fails to even notice some devices on the network. They can use the network but don't show up in any admin screens as being on the network."

      Connected devices using static IP's don't show up in any admin screens on my HH5, DHCP devices can be seen. I can't figure out why the manufacturers would think this is a good thing.

  8. heyrick Silver badge

    This is why forced updates are not always a good idea

    Orange France tends to roll out Livebox updates in early August (when the world is on holiday) and if you're lucky a fix might roll out in September to counter all the things they broke.

    It would be good to have an option to be prompted if the update should be applied. That way I can just skip the August nonsense.

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am a end user of the BT WholeHome disks and have three of them. The latest firmware update has made them work as expected.

    Thumbs up from me.

    1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

      Hi AC!

      How's the weather on Newgate Street, EC1A?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but l don't work for BT now or in the past.

        Further apologies if my comment is not something you want to read because it doesnt fit your views

  11. TonyJ Silver badge

    Sophos XG Home

    Run on an HP Gen8 Microserver.

    I did have a problem with one of the AP's going inactive and never coming back. A recovery flash and it'd work for a while then stop.

    Funnily enough when I swapped it with another, that had worked flawlessly, the "faulty" one behaved and "working" one inherited the problem.

    Turned out that the PSU supplied wasn't giving out the full 12V. Enough to start the AP and run for a while but presumably once load increased it fell off.

    Other than that, three AP's blanket my entire home and office at the end of the garden and throughput is enough for streaming 4k.

    Very happy, given the software is free and I have to say, superb.

    Absolutely second the notion of not using ISP supplied routers.

  12. JakeMS

    BT equipment sucks

    Sorry, but all of their kit just sucks.

    Remember they were boasting about how the Hub 6 was so much better than Hub 5? Here's the kicker I was given both business hubs and in terms of configuration features the Hub 6 lacked significantly in comparison to 5.

    For example, on Hub 5 you could configure your own network range 192.168.x.x 10.x etc.

    However Hub 6 this was limited you could set to to 10.0.1.x for example, but click apply and it would hang and revert to 192.168.1.x. They later said this was intentional due to some BT infra uses the 10.x range so they had to disable it. I called BS, and say it's a broken feature (considering the 10.x range is still shown as an option. Just doesn't work)

    Static IP management was a mess also compared to 5, the new UI was sluggisb compared to 5 (which is already slow) and looked terrible.

    But then there are limits compare from Home Hub to Biz Hub too!

    A business hub 5 will activate and use IPv6, a home hub 5 will report IPv6 is not available. On the exact same connection.

    Put bluntly BT kit sucks, if you need to build a network of some sort, go buy some proper kit don't bother with BTs stuff because it only gets worse with each generation.

    Just sayin'

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: BT equipment sucks

      I don't entirely agree.

      Over the years I've had modems/routers/switches from various suppliers attached to my BT lines, both BT-supplied ones and others, and it's horses for courses

      Recently went on to a BT Hub 6 and it's strong and stable - I'm typing this via a WiFi connection that's solid through a foot-thick stone wall - I've been able to pension off my old repeater box.

      If you want/need to do clever stuff then get a third party router. If you just want to quickly connect up a dozen assorted devices via WiFi or Gigabit Ethernet, then a Hub 6 is probably fine.

      Let the down votes begin!

  13. Lee D Silver badge

    People choose BT gear? Since when?

    I don't think I've ever had a connection in my life where I chose to use the BT equipment. My old workplaces all have a little box in the cupboard full of the "original" modems/routers and most of those were still in shrinkwrap. In fact, we only ever kept them in case BT gave us that "you must try to see if the problem is still present when using the original equipment or we won't support you" but even they aren't that stupid to insist on that any more.

    You can use anything from Netgear to Cisco to Draytek, at home or at work, but who the hell (among those "in the know") doesn't just replace the BT supplied junk with something that at least works? Even on Virgin, I used to stick the SuperHub in modem mode and had either a Draytek Vigor or a Linksys WRT sitting behind it doing the real work (including wireless).

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Genuine question

    Whats the difference between these and a £15 TP-Link WiFi extender?

    1. whatsyourShtoile
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Genuine question

      The new discs have a secondary function, the power can be boosted remotely to output non-lethal levels of millimetre wave radiation for crowd control, they can just turn up the power in the discs until its too uncomfortable to remain in the home.

      When the hungry masses go door to door searching for food and water, BT will use a secret extrajudicial process to activate the transmitters.

    2. jabuzz

      Re: Genuine question

      The difference is these devices support 802.11k and 802.11r so that you can seamlessly roam between hotspots in your house. Your £15 TP-Link WiFi extender will work so long as you don't move the device from one place to another, especially if you move it to a place where it can still get a signal from the original hotspot, but it is rubbish compared to the signal it could get from the hotspot right next to it.

      Remember originally WiFi was not designed with roaming in mind. Then we got a whole bunch of propriety hacks in expensive enterprise equipment to implement roaming and finally we have proper standardized roaming, which is beginning to make it's way into consumer equipment at reasonable prices.

  15. cosymart
    Meh

    Modem Mode

    At least with the VM "Super Hub 3" you can select modem mode and use a router of your choice. Is this not an option with BT?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Modem Mode

      At least with the VM "Super Hub 3" you can select modem mode and use a router of your choice.

      On the other hand, the Virgin Media Hub 3 is still a pile of shite in modem mode. Not to mention that over a year later, VM customers are waiting for the supposed firmware fix to the Puma chipset faults....and even when/if that arrives there is good reason to expect the fix to be more window dressing rather than a proper resolution.

      As with BT equipment, the root cause is these companies obsession with buying the cheapest shit that they can find, regardless of the impact on customers.

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    ISP hardware rental

    On this side of the pond, not only are we given shit hardware by the ISP, we're charged a stiff rental fee... about $10-$15 a month.

    Separates the idiots from the people able to buy a cable modem and a router/firewall.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT = Broken Tech

  18. Michael Strorm

    Well...

    ...that's another fine mesh they've got their customers into!

  19. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Mesh Networks

    Sound great, but I've never met (a consumer grade) one that can outperform multiple wired APs.

    Mesh is the blockchain (trendy buzzword) of networking. Meshes don't scale well without lots of excess channel capacity.

    My house has a couple of APs, wired to a switch in the basement. If your mesh network isn't working, get a couple of cheap APs, and run some CAT6 through the hallways and see if it helps. If it does, your only problem is how to route that cable (which may be a significant issue in rented or masonry buildings.)

    1. jabuzz

      Re: Mesh Networks

      Great but roaming between your cheap access points won't work reliably without 802.11k and 802.11r, which is where the BT Whole Home WiFi comes in. They also can be linked together with some Cat6 if you wish and this is probably recommended in the instructions.

    2. Adrian Harvey
      Thumb Up

      Re: Mesh Networks

      Some consumer grade mesh kit can form the backhaul links over CAT5/6 (for example the TP-Link Deco range.) Don't know about the BT kit in the article though.

      But my house is not set up for wired networking, so short of some ethernet-over-powerline connecting APs frankenetwork, mesh is what it has to be for reasonable coverage...

    3. sal II

      Re: Mesh Networks

      Not everyone have the skills to run cat5 cables and if you are renting it's not an option at all.

      Your individual APs are unlikely to handle device handover between them correctly so you will get disconnections while roaming at home

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mesh Networks

      I don't think Mesh netowrking is the trendy term. Been around a least a decade now.

      1. AJ MacLeod

        Re: Mesh Networks

        Indeed... it didn't work back then, either!

  20. Felix Oxley

    Unhappy

    I signed up to BT at the start of the year. I had my HomeHub 6 for about 2 days before it received a firmware update ... and the wifi hasn't worked since!

  21. flingback

    Happy Customer here...

    I've got four of the "BT" Arcadyan WholeHome AP's - two wired, two wirelessly meshed, and they work a treat. I have Unify at one office, which works also well, and at the others some SonicPoints which work less well but still usable. I would struggle to differentiate between the WholeHome and the Unify kit as a user - the roaming is seamless.

    I've got BT FTTH and scrapped the BT HH6 last month in favour of a DrayTek non-WiFi router as I didn't want BT's FON contaminating the airwaves. The ease with which BT let this happen was almost shocking, and I was totally unprepared for it having prepared for battle to retrieve my user creds!

    I would love to knock BT, all the time - but recently they've ditched some of the old crappy hardware for something that's quite good. One of my WH disks has blue-lighted twice this month, the rest are all fine. My only real beef is how long it took for the HH6 to start-up, and now that's gone it isn't a problem any more. I do wonder though, why a premium ISP wouldn't just ship a premium router - like DrayTek make...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Happy Customer here...

      I do wonder though, why a premium ISP wouldn't just ship a premium router - like DrayTek make...

      Because of the combination of high customer churn rates, low end-of-contract CPE recovery rates and poor condition of that which does get recovered, ISPs have to treat CPE as "disposable after two years". The crap that BT, EE, and Virgin Media ship out costs them about £20-30 a pop. A decent Draytek modem and router is about ten times that. If you've got 5m accounts, dishing out Draytek devices becomes a billion quid plus investment, paid up front.

      Some customers might be up for paying an additional £10 a month for working wifi, but when you look at the customer volumes for decent but higher price ISPs like A&A, or Zen, it is clear that "premium ISP" is a low volume niche which is already a tenner a month more, before thinking about providing a top quality router. Sadly most people are happy with the heavily marketed big names, the loss leader introductory prices, and the shit CPE, and even shitter customer service - in the end they do pay as much, after the first year discount runs out and the ISP hikes the rates, but the money gets spent on sales & marketing, not CPE.

      1. flingback

        Re: Happy Customer here...

        I suppose they could offer the BT DrayTek Superhub for extended reliability for an extra £50 if people were prepared to pay it... I would be interested to know how many percent of people would actually go for that were it an option.

  22. Gpzjock
    Windows

    Solved all the BT Hub issues back when it was 4.

    Swapped an incumbent HH4 for an Asus RT-N660U; this solved all QoS problems and neatly dodged any borked BT firmware hilarity. Went from 38 mb/s to 52 mb/s overnight too, funny that.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only newfangled kit?

    I'm still on a Homehub 1, and for the last few days, I keep losing connection and reconnecting again every few minutes. Coincidence?

  24. Seanmon

    Head of Bt customer services

    If you have any problem with BT, I can quite recommend emailing Libby Barr, Head of Customer Services (whose signature you'll find at the bottom of any letter or bill from BT) and telling her to procreate elsewhere. Worked for me.

    I won't share the actual address, but it's not hard to find if you're linked in. I personally feel a bit sorry for Mz Barr dealing with BTs ineptitude, but... You took the money, you made the choice.

  25. Grumpyrocker

    We've got a HH5. But I use it only as a modem with the wifi switched off. It's connected to an Asus RT-N660U which does all our wifi and routing. The signal from the HH was fine, but there was just a lack of control offered in the firmware. Meanwhile the Asus does a bang up job and thankfully the HH seems not to struggle to much when asked to be merely a modem.

  26. Markinapub

    Mine work great!

    I must fall in to the group of users who experienced no problems.

    I'm really pleased with my Whole Home system, it works well and all our devices connect fine.

    The only thing I've been disappointed by, and continue to be with this update, is that they don't daisy chain, which I always thought was the point!

  27. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge
    Coat

    I'd just like to say...

    ...that the Sky router supplied to me by Sky is absolutely perfect and works just fine.

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