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12 Mar 2019

Virgin Media launches free 'Intelligent WiFi'

Claimed to revolutionise in-home connectivity, find out what makes Virgin Media's Intelligent WiFi so smart

Virgin Media has announced the launch of 'Intelligent WiFi', a free update to customers with a Hub 3 router, which claims to bring faster speeds to more areas of the home.

Intelligent WiFi involves a smart, cloud-based system that constantly assesses wi-fi speeds and tackles problems to increase performance. Virgin Media claims its testing showed speeds improving by up to three times, even without having to use a booster.

The update has already been rolled out to all Virgin Media customers with the Hub 3 router, free of charge. If you join the network, you'll get Intelligent WiFi included at no extra monthly cost. See how well the Hub 3 router scored back in August 2017 before the updates.

If you're not happy with your wi-fi speed, your router could be the problem - find out which perform best in our round up of Best Buy routers and wi-fi extenders.

How does Virgin Intelligent WiFi work?

What does Intelligent WiFi include?

Channel optimisation

Wi-fi operates across multiple channels that are shared by connected devices in the home. If you live in a block of flats, or even in a house, there can be interference as multiple devices compete for bandwidth. Intelligent WiFi's channel optimisation works silently in the background, over 300,000 times per day, to automatically switch devices to less crowded wi-fi channels. Virgin Media claims its testing revealed 18% of homes should experience less wi-fi interference as a result.

Band steering

Often confused with channel optimisation, band steering essentially decides which devices are on the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency. This is important if you have multiple devices as some may be able to support a 5GHz frequency, where others only support 2.4GHz. Without band steering, the 2.4GHz frequency can often get clogged up and your wi-fi may not perform as expected. However, there is a downside to band steering. Often, either the router or the device doesn't manage to do this very well, and devices that can support 5GHz can end up on the 2.4GHz anyway. Or, if one frequency isn't working as expected, the router doesn't automatically know to switch to the alternative band.

Virgin Media claims that the intelligence of its new system's components work simultaneously to ensure optimum band steering - its testing showed that gadgets connected to the 5GHz frequency increased by 25%, allowing them to operate at faster speeds.

Airtime fairness

Airtime fairness is another smart feature of Intelligent Wifi that essentially helps to share out the wi-fi evenly across connected devices. This will incorporate recognising older devices that can't keep up with ultrafast broadband speeds, which can interfere with wi-fi performance.

Connect app

Virgin Media has also released an app alongside the updates to give customers greater control over their wi-fi. Features include network sharing using a QR code and even pausing devices - great if you want to cut off the wi-fi if your kids are procrastinating with their homework. You'll also have the option to test the wi-fi strength from room to room and identify blackspots. If you do happen to find one via the app, you'll automatically be eligible to receive a Virgin Media WiFi Booster.

Virgin Media has also overhauled its customer experience and support service. It's no secret that data usage is increasing, especially as homes become more connected than ever with an array of smart gadgets on the market. Virgin Media, finding that 90% of the in-home related calls to their call centres could have been resolved without the customer actually having to call for help, have added a range of support features to their app.

Although Virgin Media is claiming that Intelligent WiFi will help to reduce a lot of customer issues automatically, the extra in-app features include FAQs, videos and direct access to customer support with an agent who can resolve any additional issues. Virgin Media has also trained its engineers and installation teams on all the new features of Intelligent WiFi, so they can really make the most of it when at the customer's home.

How much does Virgin Intelligent WiFi cost?

Unlike other wi-fi systems being released,Virgin Media is offering Intelligent WiFi as standard to all customers with a Hub 3 router.

In addition, the boosters will be free for those on Full House or VIP packages, if required, but will be £3 per month for those on any package below these.

Join the fight for better broadband

Which? is campaigning for better broadband in the UK, and you can help by using our broadband speed checkerto see how fast speeds are in your home.

We have plenty of help and advice if you have issues as well - read our guide on fixing bad broadbandto find out how to fix a router, increase speeds and contact your provider if things go wrong.

And if you're not getting the broadband service you were promised, read our consumer rights advice on what to do if you have bad broadband.

Thinking of switching to Virgin Media? See where it ranks in our best and worst broadband providers for 2019and use Which? Switch Broadband to find the best price on your next broadband provider.