For years internet service providers have offered customers a router as part of their broadband package. Apart from a few exceptions, this tends to be relatively basic and when coverage isn’t good enough, ISPs either supplied powerline adapters or WiFi boosters. Or they did nothing at all.
Now, ISPs are beginning to offer customers a mesh Wi-Fi system which – in a nutshell – is a group of routers which provide much better coverage without the drawbacks of those other methods of improving Wi-Fi in your home.
And that’s essentially what Intelligent WiFi Plus is: a mesh system that works with a Virgin Hub 3 or 4 router.
You don’t buy the hardware though: it’s an add-on to your broadband package. Some people will have to pay £5 per month for it, while those on Ultimate Oomph or Gig1 Fibre get it for free.
Even if you want it, you may find it’s not available as it’s only offered to those on M50 broadband and above.
BT is doing a similar thing with its Complete WiFi service which has been available for around a year now. You can't buy the discs as a standalone system as you could with the older Whole Home Wi-Fi kit.
Now, I do want to make it clear that I haven’t tested Intelligent WiFi Plus. I’m sure it works well and is a big improvement over Virgin’s old WiFi boosters, but you should be wary of signing up if you’re not eligible to get a WiFi Pod free.
A fiver a month may not sound like much, but unless you’re planning to switch broadband providers in the next year or two, you might well end up spending more than you would by simply buying a mesh Wi-Fi system outright.
Basic ones, which should still be perfectly good for the average UK home, cost about £60 - Tenda’s Nova MW3, for example.
Read the Ts & Cs for Intelligent WiFi Plus and you’ll find that you can only get a second Pod “following an assessment of the WiFi performance inside the registered account address by a Virgin Media agent.” Also, ”A third WiFi pod can only be installed by a technician after reviewing the in-home setup and is included at no extra cost as part of the Intelligent WiFi Plus service.”
So, if you have a larger home you’ll have to jump through a few hoops to get the extra Pods you’ll need.
Another important thing to note is that Intelligent WiFi Plus only works with Virgin broadband so you can’t use the Pods if you do switch to another broadband provider. Again, the Ts & Cs remind you that “All equipment remains the property of Virgin Media. It must be returned to us upon request or a charge may apply.”
So… before you agree to pay £5 per month extra for those Pods, consider whether you might be better off buying a mesh Wi-Fi system yourself. And if you do come to that conclusion, here are the mesh systems we recommend.