Virgin Media's modem comes out ahead of rivals in independent testing

The Virgin Media Hub fares really well in terms of speed and range.

Maeve McLaughlin
by Maeve McLaughlin on 5th August, 2016

Back in January, Virgin Media launched its ‘next generation’ modem, the Virgin Media Hub.

After 6 months in operation, the company has now published the results of tests it carried out to see how it performs in relation to modems from rivals eir, Sky, and Vodafone. And you could say it’s done pretty well.

The testing environment

First things first, how did these tests work? Well, basically:

  • Virgin Media enlisted consulting firm Cartesian to conduct the tests, which compared performance of the Virgin Media Hub against modems from eir, Sky and Vodafone. Both Sky Hub 2.0 and the Sky Q modem were tested - Sky customers could be on either of these, depending on their package;
  • The testing was done in Cartesian’s ‘Wi-Fi test house’, which is a large house in a quiet WiFi location, with the usual features like brick walls, staircase etc. Several spots were tested throughout the house, from right beside the modem, to a bedroom upstairs on the opposite side of the house;
  • Three devices were connected to the WiFi simultaneously, to replicate the actual user experience as much as possible - a Samsung Galaxy S6, MacBook Pro and iPad Air 2;
  • Each test was conducted three times across each modem and the average score was used.

It’s worth noting that the modems were not connected to a network when the tests were performed. So this was purely a test of modem performance, rather than an indication of network performance from each provider.

The technology bit

Virgin Media Hub is a ‘dual-concurrent’ modem, which means it has a 2.4GHz band and a 5GHz band. This means that older devices will work just as well as newer ones, for example, if you have an older iPhone, it will only work on the 2.4GHz frequency - but if you do a lot of online gaming, the 5GHz will work better for you.

The modem is capable of speeds up to 1Gb, and supports Virgin Horizon WiFree, which is basically public WiFi that guests to your home can access.

As we mentioned, the modems were not connected to a network when tested. Instead, Cartesian used the industry-standard IxChariot tool to generate network traffic in order to measure the Wi-Fi performance of the modem.

The results

Virgin Media already scooped the award for fastest broadband at the Switcher Broadband Awards earlier this year, so in terms of the actual modem, how does the Virgin Media Hub compare to its rivals?

Well, in terms of download speeds, the tests showed Virgin Media’s modem gave an average speed of 282.9 Mbps, which was 40% faster than eir (201.4 Mbps) and 34% faster than Sky Q modem (210.5 Mbps). Virgin Media has pointed out that Sky’s Sky Hub 2.0 and Vodafone’s modems are not dual concurrent and so aren’t comparable across the three devices tested.

There was also a test carried out of speeds in a hard-to-reach location in the test house - in this case, an upper-floor bedroom a good distance from the modem - to determine WiFi range. In this test, Virgin Media Hub again performed the best, reaching speeds of almost 110 Mbps, while eir reached 81.29 Mbps and Sky achieved speeds of just 49.5 Mbps on average.

What does this mean for customers?

Virgin Media is rolling out these modems to any new and existing customers on 240Mb broadband or higher. So if you’re an existing customer on a pack like that, you can contact the company to ask for one to be sent out to you; new customers will automatically get this modem when they sign up.

With these tests showing speeds of over 100 Mbps all throughout the home, essentially customers using this modem will really notice a difference in terms of both speed and range of their WiFi. Speeds like this mean smooth streaming and fast downloads, both of which are really important.

Virgin Media has also said the Virgin Media Hub will effectively render WiFi extenders redundant. This will be welcome news for anyone who has their modem far away from where they’re using WiFi most frequently.

Broadband, and in particular WiFi, has become a necessity for most households, and it looks like with this offering, Virgin Media are showing an investment in ensuring their customers have the best hardware to ensure a really good online experience.

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