Wireless broadband (or Wi-Fi) is quickly becoming the norm in almost every household with a broadband connection. With wireless broadband, several people can get online at once, making it brilliant for busy households.
The great advantage of portable devices such as laptops, tablets and netbooks is that you can carry them around from room to room, or even out into the garden. With a wireless broadband connection, you can make full use of your devices by using them anywhere in range!
To get wireless broadband in your home, you need a wireless router. Wireless routers are the devices that transmit data from the Internet around your home. This data will travel through the router and is broadcast and picked up by wireless adapters that you plug into whichever device you want to pick up wireless broadband.
Want to know more about wireless broadband? Read our guide - What is wireless broadband?
Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) now supply customers with wireless routers (often for free) allowing them to go wireless with their broadband packages, so every member of the family can make the most of their broadband connection whenever they want or need to.
Wireless broadband is for everyone
Quite literally! Wireless broadband makes broadband readily available throughout the home, from families to students and shared homes, or even people who live alone and simply want the freedom of Internet everywhere:
- Families The technological revolution has seen households up and down the country become owners of multiple PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones and games consoles that operate online.
If you’re part of a family where everyone seems to want to access the Internet at once from different rooms of the house, wireless broadband is a must. To view all family broadband packages, see our family broadband page
- Gamers The gaming world has never been more competitive than now. With a greater, more sophisticated range of consoles than ever before, online gaming has become an international pastime operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For gamers using PS3s, Xbox 360s, Nintendo Wiis, Wii U's and other wireless gaming devices, wireless broadband is essential. Compare all gaming broadband packages on our gaming broadband page.
- Laptop and iPad users Maybe you’re tired of being tied down by your telephone point? If you’re a laptop, netbook or iPad user, then you’re bound to be getting frustrated with having to sit in the same place all the time.
Maybe you want to relax on the sofa while you stream some catch-up TV or sit in your bed on a Sunday morning and shop online. Wireless broadband will give you the freedom to roam and get online wherever you are in the house. See all broadband and free laptop packages.
- Multiple computer owners For those of us who want to expand the number of computers used at home, or those with several computer users already living at home, wireless broadband is the most obvious solution to multiple Internet users.
Wireless broadband is unnecessary if:
- You solely connect to the Internet on a desktop computer that is near a telephone point. However, with wireless routers now provided as standard with most providers, you may find it hard to find a broadband product that still includes a standard, fixed-line router.
Wireless broadband routers
A wireless router does exactly what the name suggests - it routes signals without the use of wires. Most wireless routers have at least one aerial or antenna, which the router uses to send signals wirelessly to your computer’s wireless adapter.
Many computers have a built-in wireless adapter that you can turn on to pick up wireless broadband signals from your wireless router. However, if you do not have this facility on your laptop - most likely because it's an older model - you can get a wireless network card or external wireless adapter that will pick up the wireless broadband signal from your wireless router.
There is a lot of jargon to understand when it comes to wireless routers; you will need to look out for 802.11g and 802.11n. These numbers are a wireless broadband standard that indicate the speed at which information can travel using your wireless router. Older wireless routers are 802.11g. The 'n' standard means faster data transfer - these are newer models.
The very newest wireless routers, however, use the 'ac' standard. These are super high performance models and for the most part aren't included with UK home broadband services.
For more information on wireless broadband routers, check out our guide: What is a wireless router?
Each ISP offering wireless broadband has its own wireless router that comes free with its wireless broadband packages.
O2’s wireless broadband routers
O2 currently offers two different wireless routers depending on the wireless broadband package that you choose.
O2 home wireless broadband The Works bundle comes with the O2 Best Wireless Box which supports 'n' technology. The Best Wireless box also enables realtime multimedia content streaming. You can do this by plugging in a USB memory stick to the router and sharing the contents on your home network.
The O2 home wireless broadband Basics, All-Rounder and Access packages come with the O2 Standard Wireless Box which supports 802.11b and 802.11g standards.
Both the O2 wireless box routers come with pre-set security features including a built-in firewall.
TalkTalk wireless broadband router
TalkTalk customers are provided with different routers depending on the package they choose. Essentials subscribers, for instance, get an entry-level model, while PlusTV customers get a router with additional features.
Add TalkTalk's Fibre Boost and you'll be given a fibre broadband compatible router that's optimised to handle the faster speeds that cable technology is capable of.
BT wireless broadband routers – the BT Home Hub
The BT Home Hub has been a driving force in raising the standards of the wireless router game for all ISPs. The Home Hub wireless router has twice the wireless range of any other wireless router on the market.
The BT Home Hub is a next generation wireless router with 'N' technology. It's easy to connect to multiple devices such as PCs, laptops and gaming consoles without the need for wires. The built-in firewall helps keep you safe from viruses and unwanted intruders. The BT Home Hub even updates itself automatically with new features including all-important security updates.
- ADSL (Broadband)
- Wifi: 802.11b / 802.11g / 802.11n (Supports WEP, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK)
- 130mbps 2 antennae (internal Broadcom BCM94321MP)
- Dimensions:175mm x 88mm x 182mm
- Connectors: 4 x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet sockets (RJ45), 1 x USB, Broadband In (RJ11), telephone socket.
Be Box wireless broadband router
The Be Box is a DSL broadband wireless router and is free irrespective of which Be broadband product you choose. It offers 802.11bg wireless LAN interface, supports ADSL2+ and is backward compatible to ADSL offering. The Be Box comes equipped with a 4-port 10/100 meg Ethernet.
Be describes the Be Box as a ‘feature-rich’ wireless broadband router, allowing seamless use of multiple high-bandwidth applications, which made it a hit with gamers.
Be Box wireless router technical specification:
- IEEE 802.11g and IEEE 802.11b
- Data rate: 54, 48, 36, 24, 18, 12, 9, 6 megs for 802.11bg 11, 5.5, 2, 1 megs for 802.11b.
- Modulation technique: OFDM for 802.11bg; CCK (11 megs, 5,5 megs) for 802.11bg; DQPSK (2 megs) for 802.11bg; DBPSK (1 megs) for 802.11bg.
- Operating frequency: 2.4 ~ 2.497 GHz.
- Operating channels: depending on local regulations. For example, 11 channels (North America), 13 channels (Europe), and 14 channels (Japan).
- Coverage area: 802.11bg: line of sight (LoS - outdoors): max. 50 metres; indoors: max. 20 metres 802.11b: LoS (outdoors): max. 180 metres; indoors: max. 60 metres.
- Supports WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) mechanism with 64-bit or 128-bit key length.
- Supports 802.1x and WPA and WPA2.
- Supports the access control function: only registered WLAN clients can be allowed to associate to this IAD.
- SSID can be hidden for added security.
- Supports the repeater function to extend the coverage area (WDS).
Virgin Media wireless broadband router
Virgin Media's router is called the Super Hub and is free with all the provider's packages. Billed as Virgin Media's fastest router ever, the Super Hub's selling points include
- Up to the minute wireless ‘N’ technology for fast, secure connections
- Capable fo handling 120Mb+ fibre broadband speeds
- 5GHz compatible
Sky wireless broadband router
The Sky Hub stands out for offering Intelligent power consumption that means it will automatically revert to low power mode when not in use. It's also equipped with Sky Smart Signal technology to ensure you get a strong signal and offers a simple and secure WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) to keep you safe.
EE wireless broadband router
EE's BrightBox uses wireless N technology is designed specifically with fibre broadband in mind. Twin aerials are on board for improved signal strength and it's future-proofed so that it can handle speeds of up to 150Mbps.
EE broadband customers using the BrightBox can expect to connect to the internet within a 350 metre range.
Award winning wireless broadband
See who won the best wireless broadband award in the Top 10 Broadband Awardswireless broadband award.
BT's success in 2009 was repeated in 2010 when it once again stole the show with its fantastic innovation in the broadband space, which includes its market-leading HomeHub 2.0.
How to set up a wireless broadband connection
You will need to set up a simple WLAN (wireless local area network) – but don’t worry – most broadband providers provide simple ‘plug and play’ wireless equipment which involves little more than:
- Plugging in a wireless modem/router
- Loading up a CD-ROM with the wireless broadband software.
That said if you do get stuck, most ISPs provide immaculate support to help you set up your home wireless network as painlessly as possible.
Future of wireless broadband
Mobile broadband is becoming an ever more popular proposition for UK broadband users and many are looking to cancel their landlines in favour of mobile broadband sticks which offer them a greater level of flexibility.
Up until recently, mobile broadband was a "one connection per laptop" affair. However, that is no longer the case, as manufacturers have brought out a wireless router for mobile broadband users called the MiFi. In order to avail yourself of wireless broadband you need only to turn on the MiFi unit, pair it with your computer and you're ready to go.
Compare bestselling deals here wireless mobile broadband
Wireless broadband trouble?
If you are struggling to get up and running with wireless broadband at home, refer to our mini article about wireless broadband: wireless broadband problems?