Virgin Media network cable connections can be really rather good.
The real world issue is that they are let down by the quality and performance of their ‘SuperHubs’, hereafter referred to as their ‘Stupid Hubs‘.
There are several problems…
- The Hub is a combination device that tries to be Cable modem, Router, Wireless Access Point and a Switch.
- The device is heavily locked down so that only limited amounts of user-tweaks are possible.
- Wi-Fi performance is poor, not just the range, but its ability to handle loads.
- Routing performance can be poor under specific circumstances.
- The lock-down can cause technical issues with some VPN connections.
In our home, literally the only practical place that the stupid-hub can live is right next to the TV.
Because the Stupid-Hub appears to have inadequate RF shielding, when the TV is switched on, the performance of the Stupid-Hub Wifi drops considerably. For reasons that are not entirely clear, even wired connections suffer horribly (but not when Wi-Fi is turned off, suspiciously). The Virgin engineer that tried to sort this out for us recommend that the hub is at least 2m away from TV’s, monitors, microwaves and any other electrical devices, like computers, phones and iPads !
This is pretty impractical in a small house. A quick survey with a 2m long bamboo cane gave me just a handful of highly impractical potential locations. The loft was a strong contender for a while, but apparently the hub does not like low or high temps. Under the bath was considered and mounted on a wall half way up the stairs was briefly discussed. Just the issues running coax and power cables to these crazy locations ruled them right out.
Something needed to be done.
In short, if you want half decent Wi-fi, you need to disable it on the Stupid-Hub and plug in a decent wireless Access Point.
The standard Stupid-Hub was incapable of getting a signal to about half the house. It reached upstairs, but barely and there was zero signal in the office and the bathroom.
There are multiple ways to solve this. We chose to use high performance products from Ubiquiti and Netgear, but I am very aware that you could do nearly all of this on a tight budget by getting a decent Wireless Router from Netgear or Linksys etc.
This entry is all about doing it really well and building a high performance network that is robust, and can be upgraded over time without relying on a specific Internet Service Provider.
For us, step one was just to fix the terrible Wi-Fi.