Which broadband provider has the best wireless router?

Last updated: 5 August 2023   By Neil Hawkins

Choosing a broadband deal with an advanced wireless router can make the difference between a fast and slow connection.

Since the release of the 6GHz channel for wireless routers, the latest technology to look for is WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E.

However, to make use of the latest protocol our devices also need to support it, which means most households will benefit most from tri-band channels and mesh systems.

The best free routers are generally bundled with the fastest broadband plans as well, so expect to pay more to access the latest gadgets.

wireless router
Credit: Milosbeo/Shutterstock.com

At a glance: best wireless routers

The best wireless routers come with the latest technology, including the most recent WiFi 6 and 6E protocols, as well as dual or tri-band channels, and intelligent mesh.

WiFi protocol WiFi bands Intelligent Mesh Security
Vodafone Ultra Hub WiFi 6E Tri-band Yes WPA3
TalkTalk eero Pro 6 WiFi 6 Tri-band Yes WPA3
Community Fibre Linksys Velop WiFi 6 Tri-band Yes WPA3
Virgin Media Hub 5 WiFi 6 Dual-band Yes WPA3
Sky Max Hub WiFi 6 Dual-band Yes WPA3
BT Smart Hub 2 WiFi 5 Dual-band Yes WPA2

Verdict: the best free router

The best free router is the Ultra Hub provided with Vodafone Pro II broadband packages. It supports WiFi 6E so users can benefit from the newly released 6GHz spectrum and mitigate congestion from nearby networks on crowded 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

However, to benefit from the latest technology, customers also need devices that support WiFi 6E which so far are fairly few and far between, although it's likely devices released in 2023 and beyond will now adopt the latest protocol.

For most households tri-band routers, like the eero Pro 6 offered by TalkTalk and the Linksys Velop from Community Fibre may offer the best wireless upgrade as they offer an additional 5GHz channel to improve signal performance.

Finally, intelligent mesh systems, which are found on most of the latest routers, including the BT Smart Hub 2 and Sky Max Hub, enable customers to seamlessly extend their wireless network around a larger home, or where thick walls are causing signal degradation, are worth having.


Vodafone Ultra Hub

Vodafone's new Ultra Hub is provided free with their Pro II broadband packages and is the only router that supports the latest WiFi 6E technology.

WiFi 6E supports the newest 6GHz WiFi band, which means more airwaves for wireless signal and less interference than on crowded 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels.

vodafone ultra hub

The only downside to such advanced wireless technology however, is WiFi 6E can only be beneficial to people who also have WiFi 6 compatible devices.

Customers will need to have the latest devices too, such as the Google Pixel 6 or Samsung Galaxy S21 and S22.

Recently released laptops and computers may support WiFi 6E, but for example only Apple devices released in 2023 support it, and it's not yet supported on the iPhone.

Vodafone's Ultra Hub also comes bundled with a Super WiFi 6E booster, which uses intelligent mesh to extend a wireless network around a home, and a 4G broadband back-up device too, so customers can switch to Vodafone's 4G mobile network if their fixed-line broadband goes down at any point.

Vodafone Pro II broadband is one of only a handful of broadband plans that come bundled with a whole home WiFi guarantee.

The following Vodafone broadband plans come with the Ultra Hub:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 150 + Super WiFi 6 150Mb average £36 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Power Hub with WiFi 6 + Super WiFi 6 Booster + Automatic 4G Broadband Back-Up + £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers
Full Fibre 500 + Super WiFi 6 500Mb average £40 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Power Hub with WiFi 6 + Super WiFi 6 Booster + Automatic 4G Broadband Back-Up + £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers
Full Fibre 910 + Super WiFi 6 910Mb average £46 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Power Hub with WiFi 6 + Super WiFi 6 Booster + Automatic 4G Broadband Back-Up + £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers + Up to £100 of your leaving fees covered when switching to Vodafone Broadband

Read more in our review of Vodafone broadband.


TalkTalk eero Pro 6

TalkTalk provide an Amazon eero Pro 6 with their Full Fibre 500 and Full Fibre 900 broadband packages.

The eero Pro 6 is a WiFi 6 router with tri-band channels, meaning it provides connectivity over one 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands - this doubles the amount of airwaves available for wireless data to be sent over.

amazon eero pro 6

The router supports speeds of up to 1Gbps and each device covers up to 560 square meters. Eero is an intelligent mesh system however, so customers just need to use additional eero Pro 6 routers to extend their network.

TalkTalk Full Fibre 900 comes with two eero Pro 6 routers as standard, and customers on Full Fibre 500 can sign up to Total Home WiFi for £6 per month for an additional eero.

The eero Pro 6 also boasts a built-in Zigbee smart home hub, so the router connects compatible smart devices and works with Alexa voice control.

The following TalkTalk broadband plans come with the eero Pro 6:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 500 525Mb average £39 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Free setup and P&P
Full Fibre 900 944Mb average £49 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Free setup and P&P

Read more in our TalkTalk broadband review.


Community Fibre Linksys Velop

London-based Community Fibre offer a range of Linksys Velop routers with their broadband plans, with the most advanced WiFi 6 router provided to gigabit customers.

The Linksys Velop router provides the latest WiFi 6 technology on tri-band channels, so one 2.4GHz band, and two 5GHz bands.

linksys velop tri-band

Linksys Velop is also an intelligent mesh system, which again, means customers only need to purchase additional Velop devices to seamlessly extend their network around a larger home.

Community Fibre also offer a paid-for subscription, WiFi in Every Room, which includes additional devices and an engineer installation for £10 a month.

The router boasts six internal antennae and supports up to 650Mbps wireless network speeds.

The following Community Fibre broadband plans come with the Linksys Velop WiFi 6 Tri-band router:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
1Gbps Fibre Broadband 920Mb average £26 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Installed in 48 hours + Free setup

Read more in our Community Fibre review.


Virgin Media Hub 5

Virgin Media's Hub 5 was announced at the end of 2021, and has been rolled out to new and existing customers on their Gig1 broadband plan throughout 2022.

It also supports WiFi 6 (802.11ax) connectivity, but only supports dual-band wireless on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels.

virgin media hub

It's made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic which may appeal to customers keen to buy from companies committed to reducing their carbon footprint, but the real power of the Hub 5 is inside, supporting speeds of up to 10Gbps.

The Hub 5 is a notable upgrade over the previous Hub 4, with more internal antennae the Hub 5 can support more devices connected at the same time, while expanding coverage and boosting speeds, with lower latency and reduced interference from neighbouring wireless networks.

The Hub 5 is one of few routers that support multi-gigabit speeds, bundling a 2.5Gb Ethernet port for lightning fast wired connections. It also upgrades the security to WPA3 over the common WPA2 of more standard devices.

Like the Hub 3 and Hub 4, the Hub 5 also supports Intelligent Mesh and works with Virgin's WiFi Max service, which comes free with Gig1 and Volt bundles.

The following Virgin Media broadband plans come with the Hub 5:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Gig1 Fibre Broadband 1.13Gb average £41 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £41 per month + No setup fee (was £35)
Gig1 Volt Fibre Broadband + Weekend chatter 1.13Gb average £51.99 Free 18 months
offer Offer: No setup fee (was £35) + O2 mobile SIM with 6GB data, unlimited minutes and texts

Read more in our Virgin Media broadband review.


Sky Max Hub

The Sky Max Hub was released in July 2023 as part of a premium add-on called Sky WiFi Max.

Sky WiFi Max is the provider's new whole home WiFi guarantee, with improved minimum speeds of 25Mbps on full fibre plans.

sky max hub

However, the Sky WiFi Max add-on includes the updated Sky Max Hub router as well, so customers only get the latest router if they're willing to pay extra for it.

The Sky Max Hub offers a number of improvements over the standard Sky Broadband Hub however, as it supports WiFi 6, has updated WPA security, and also supports mesh using the Plume WiFi Pod system just like Virgin Media.

It's a useful addition for customers who also take Sky Stream or Sky Glass, as both these devices support WiFi 6. However, it's not yet available to customers who bundle Sky broadband with Sky Q.

The Sky Max Hub can be added for an extra fee on any Sky broadband plan, however the following full fibre deals offer the fastest wireless guarantee:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Ultrafast Broadband 145Mb average £28 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)
Ultrafast Plus Broadband 500Mb average £33 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)
Gigafast Broadband 900Mb average £41 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)

Read more in our Sky broadband review.


BT Smart Hub 2

The BT Smart Hub 2 is the latest router from BT and is offered across all of their broadband plans.

However, it first launched in November 2018, so doesn't have the latest WiFi technology. Instead it supports up to WiFi 5 (802.11ac) and has dual-band wireless channels.

bt smart hub 2

It does support intelligent mesh, and users can extend their networks either by purchasing Complete WiFi discs, or signing up to the Complete WiFi Guarantee for £12 per month.

While the BT Smart Hub 2 will be more than adequate for most homes and most devices, it is started to feel a little dated with the advancement of WiFi 6 and now WiFi 6E with the release of the 6GHz channel.

The BT Smart Hub 2 is available across all packages, but here are two of their most popular deals:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Fibre 2 67Mb average £36.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Reduced price for 24 months + (Ends 06/06/2024)
Full Fibre 100 150Mb average £29.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £1/mth and free setup (was £31.99) (Ends 06/06/2024)

Read more in our BT broadband review.


Other routers

We've not covered all broadband providers in this list as we've focused on the latest and most popular routers.

However, some we've missed out aren't necessarily bad or not very good, as we'll look at quickly below.

EE and Plusnet

The routers offered by EE broadband to their customers are repackaged BT hubs, so customers are getting premium equipment.

Like BT, EE offer a slight upgrade to their Smart Hub in the form of a Smart WiFi Router that works with Smart WiFi Discs. This creates a boosting system that matches BT Complete WiFi and again costs £10 per month.

Plusnet routers are also repackaged versions of their parent company's hubs, with all customers getting a rebranded version of the BT Smart Hub 2, named the Plusnet Hub Two.

Hyperoptic

Finally, Hyperoptic customers on their 500Mb or 900Mb packages will receive the Nokia Hyperhub.

This is a capable router meeting the Wi-Fi 5 standard and featuring WPA2 along with 4 x Gigabit LAN ports, 4 antennae and automatic band steering.

It can handle the speeds of faster Hyperoptic packages, while customers on slow packages are provided with a ZTE Hyperhub with lower specs.

KCOM

For customers living in and around Hull, KCOM now provide the Lighthub 2.0 router with all broadband packages.

The Lighthub 2.0 offers WiFi 6 support, along with intelligent mesh, and can also be bundled with the Smart WiFi whole home WiFi guarantee for additional WiFi 6 access points.

The Zyxel EX 5401, the router behind the Lighthub 2.0, also has updated security supporting WPA3 encryption.

Basic routers

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that we haven't discussed many routers from budget providers like Shell Energy Broadband and NOW Broadband in this guide.

That's because most budget providers economise on the router, including fewer antennae and ports as well as poorer band steering in comparison to the hubs we've discussed above.

In the case of NOW, their routers are repackaged versions of older Sky hubs - these are good pieces of kit, but they're looking dated.

It all depends what customers need from their broadband and more basic routers will be fine in households where only a few devices need to be connected to the internet and the hub doesn't need to reach that wide an area.

When we start looking at powering multiple phones, tablets, computers and smart devices at once, that's when we can run into issues with basic routers, so it's down to a customer to assess their needs and work out whether one of the provider routers listed in this guide would be more appropriate for them.

Even customers with basic routers can get better speeds from their home broadband: find out more about improving your broadband speeds, and how to upgrade your router.


Summary: Which wireless router is best?

While the WiFi 6E router provided with Vodafone Pro II plans is the best in the market, it comes down to whether customers have WiFi 6E compatible devices to use with it.

Older devices, which is most pre-2023 devices, won't be able to make use of the WiFi 6E protocol and will run over WiFi 5 anyway, making the most advanced routers a little unnecessary.

More devices support WiFi 6 however, including iPhone 11 and later, Huawei P40 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 and later, the Sky Stream Puck box, as well as the Sky Glass TV set, and a number of recent laptops and tablets.

Yet, despite the Virgin Hub 5 supporting WiFi 6, their latest device release, Virgin Stream box, only supports WiFi 5.

Overall then, while the latest and most advance routers can help to improve our broadband speeds and extend our wireless coverage, to get the most benefit from them we also need the latest devices.

At least for a while then, this means WiFi 5 routers will be more than adequate for most homes, but to really speed up broadband it's worth looking at specific router upgrades that can be more powerful.

Remember, too, that even routers with enhanced security will need setting up properly to ensure the safety of the home broadband network, so find out more about how to protect your wireless router.

Comments

Brett Charlton
16 June 2022

I just signed up to Virgin, and they sent me a Virgin Media Hub 3, which was released in 2016. Tried to contact them about not wanting such an outdated model, and they said the Hub 4 and 5 were in short supply. Virgin have the worst customer service I have ever experienced.

Marcia McGrail
13 July 2020

From having no problems at all with EE's Brightbox for 18mths, since 24th March, I have had daily loss of internet - sometimes x3 randomly for hours at a time - no, don't tell me to check the wiring/plug/cable etc. Change of router didn't work; sent out an engineer after lockdown ended but although improved to x2 randomly daily, soooo frustrating as EE are still happy to take my money but I'm not happy.

Debbie Newton
21 February 2018

I have BT broadband, no cable or fibre are available here, and a Home Hub 3. Upload speed is 1.5Mbps. I would like to to live stream a wifi nest cam but need an upload speed of 2Mbps to see a clear live stream. Would an upgraded hub help the upload speed ... Hub 4?

Munchy
6 November 2017

Thinking of moving from Virgin, mostly due to bad customer services, but Sky Sports kinda makes it hard for me to do.

Choose team replying to Munchy
9 November 2017

Hi there,
We have a guide on how to get Sky Sports and how much it will cost with various providers here: https://www.choose.co.uk/gu... - We hope this helps!

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