Broadband Hardware

BT Whole Home Wi-Fi: what’s the catch?

BT Whole Home Wi-Fi
Missing mesh: the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi doesn't have an important component

With a three-storey Georgian house, complete with thick walls and an extension on the back, ensuring Wi-Fi coverage has always been a challenge. It doesn’t help that my router is at the very front of the house, albeit on the first floor (so at least vertically central).

The best thing I’d done until now was replace my ISP-provided router with a good-quality third-party solution – the TP-Link Archer VR900. However, that was never quite enough for the rear extension, so I added a matching TP-Link extender. That worked reasonably well (although the extender could be flaky at times) until I had Nest Outdoor cameras installed – one on the front and one at the rear. The Wi-Fi extender just wasn’t reliable enough to provide a steady signal to the rear camera. So, maybe It was time for an upgrade and a mesh network appeared to be the way forward.

What’s a mesh network?

Mesh networks consist of several routers that communicate with each other, essentially allowing the Wi-Fi signals to hop along each unit until they reach their destination, theoretically blanketing a large area. You may have three mesh routers in your house and the signal may be passed through each before reaching the end device.

Invariably these devices do not contain a modem, which you’ll need to purchase separately (I had an Openreach modem in a cupboard, left over from the dark days of using BT as my broadband provider).

So, whats wrong with the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi?

Reviews of this product will often mention how much cheaper it is compared to the competition. But there’s a reason for that. Unlike all the other Mesh networks that I’ve came across, the BT version doesn’t contain a router – essentially, it’s an access point. This means you need to connect your BT Whole Home Wi-Fi to an existing router, so if you don’t already have something then this will not be the solution for you. The fact that your existing router does a lot of the donkey work explains why many features are missing from the Whole Home Wi-Fi. And why it’s cheaper.

It’s all packaged smartly and comes with a nice-to-use phone app but, for me, that lack of router support was a problem, so I returned it before even fully trying it out.

Now read this: what do the coloured lights on routers mean?

About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.


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  • “it doesn’t have a router so I just sent it back”. Wow. 30 years in the business and you can’t even understand how things work or why someone might might want to go mesh. Remind me to never go near any of your words again.

    • you can’t even understand how things work

      As most mesh system don’t require an existing router to tether to, just a modem, I would suggest that you may have mis-understood something here.

      Of all the mesh devices on the market, this is the only one that doesn’t come with a built-in router. As this isn’t made clear on their Amazon sales page either, this could be potentially confusing for many customers (and I certainly wasn’t aware of it). In my case, I needed something to also replace my ageing (and probably highly insecure) router.