BT Broadband HomeHub

With my parent’s recent move, I took the opportunity to get them to change Broadband provider from Pipex where they got a 2Mb connection with 2GB limit, to BT Broadband with up to 8Mb and still a 2GB limit (they are light users so this isn’t a problem.) Not only is it cheaper but also provides free evening and weekend calls over VOIP, and 250 BT OpenZone minutes a month, which they won’t use but I definitely will ;-)

They already had a Belkin wireless router which I’d set up for them mainly so I can have a wireless connection when back there. However I got them BT’s new HomeHub which you may have seen advertised all over the place. It is a repackaged and re-badged Thomson Speedtouch ADSL router with two Ethernet ports and two USB ports. You can connect computers either by Ethernet, USB or wireless. On the wireless side it supports 802.11b/g and comes pre-configured for 64 bit WEP encryption which I immediately replaced with WPA2 AES.

As the connection is an ADSL Max service you have to leave the router for about an hour as it synchronizes with the exchange equipment to obtain the optimal connection speed. During this period it will drop and reconnect a number of times. It eventually seemed to settle down at about 4Mb downstream and 488Kb upstream. Over the first 10 days or so the line continues to learn (with the odd dropout of connection as a result) to work out the fastest stable speed you can achieve.

Given that BT don’t require you to configure a userid/password on the router, setup was simple. I installed the BT supplied CD onto my parent’s computer which put on a customised version of IE6, BT communicator, a wireless connection manager and various other stuff.

Of course, being a geek I started to poke around the web based management interface of the device. BT have obviously tried to make it as simple as possible to configure, which means that most useful settings are relegated to advanced menus. Examples of this include the firewall and wireless security settings. The net result is that actually configuring the device in any meaningful way becomes a bit of a pain and it can be hard to determine exactly where certain settings are. There are also some configuration settings which are not exposed at all within the web interface; a prime example being setting up a dynamic DNS client which can only be done via the undocumented telnet interface.

The interesting part of this device however is the VOIP capability. As part of the package you get an 056 phone number which acts as a SIP based VOIP phone line separate to the main BT line. During setup of the router, you configure it with the phone number and password and it connects to BT to validate these settings. On the back of the router is an RJ11 phone jack into which you can plug an ordinary phone which will then enable you to make and receive calls over VOIP. More interestingly however, the router itself contains a built-in DECT base station. My parents already have a BT DECT phone to which they have four handsets. Only three of them were in use, so I got the spare one out of the drawer and registered it to the router’s base station (note, it has to be a GAP compatible handset to work.) This worked flawlessly and allows my parents to make VOIP calls without the need to be either at the computer or even near it, which is a real bonus. Pick up the phone and you hear a higher pitched ringing tone indicating that it is the VOIP connection. After a bit more playing around I found out you can register the handset to multiple base stations, so by pressing 5 before dialling it can call out via their normal phone line instead. The VOIP number supports normal BT facilities such as caller ID and the 1571 voicemail service.

Of course, all this is possible with routers from the likes of Draytek, or even by plugging in an extra box to your existing router, but this was so simple to set up and use that I can really see my parents making use of it. As a whole, if you are a geek like me then you’d probably be frustrated by the configuration of the router, and I’ll certainly not be replacing my Zyxel router anytime soon. I am very interested in getting a SIP based VOIP solution sorted out however.

16 thoughts on “BT Broadband HomeHub

  1. I had read the Jasonmhirst blog and comments when googling about a couple of questions I had when setting the HomeHub up.

    To be fair, I think a lot of people are expecting the device to be some sort of uber-router/jack of all trades. For instance, just because it has two USB ports, people seem to be unhappy about the fact that it can’t act as a print server. I don’t remember BT saying it ever did.

    A lot of people also seem to be complaining about the fact their ADSLMax line takes time to settle down and work out the best possible stable speed for your phone line. This is a feature of the line, not the router.

    I’ve already commented on the fact that it is not a product that I’d use myself. However I do believe that it is perfectly good for the vast majority of BT Broadband users who are not going to be what you might call power-users. For those that are, go out and use any router you want. BT don’t force the HomeHub on you. It’s certainly fine for what my parents will require it to do.

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  3. Yes on that precise subject – configuration…. Anyone out there who can provide help on VPN passthrough – enabling IPSEC and the like. I have recently installed in preference to AOL for other reasons but now find I can’t access my work extranet – which was never a problem on AOL. BT can’t help but others I have spoken to have advised to check the configuration..

  4. Hi Helen,

    I’m not in much of a position to help as the router is at my parent’s house. However when setting it up for them I did connect up my work laptop wirelessly and connect through to our work VPN using IPSec. I didn’t do anything special to the router to enable this. Good luck with finding the answer to your problem!

  5. Hi Adrian,
    My problem with the BT hub is that my previous netgear modem/router/switch enabled me to connect 4 devices via ethernet cables. I can now only use two which means that I can not network the printer. I bought a seperate switch to plug into one of the BT hub etherenet ports but that did not help as the BT hub router does not want to play outside of its box. I am unsure if I buy a seperate router if this will work either. Any help would be most apreciated

  6. I’m not a super user or woteva, I don’t even know much about computers, but I can safely say that the bt home hub is the biggest load of crap I have eva bought!! Less than a month after we get it I click on the internet icon and the bt page pops up sayin that the DSL line is not connected which it totaly is, there is nothing wrong with my computer, phone line or connection ports and wires. But still the internet won’t work, then the dumb asses who made the trouble shoot program tell me they can’t fix the probolem but maybey the web link below can help- how can I use a web link if I don’t hav the internet!!! Thus is realy startin 2 get on my last nerves! Can any1 help me plz!?!

  7. My mate has just set received the Home Hub and set it up – and it seems Adrian’s original appraisal is spot on. My mate is of the “give me my service now without me having to think” school of thought. He’s managed to get everything working (even BlueTooth) with very little effort.
    I do think it’s interesting that reviews of BT products all attract the same kind of postings though. They go along the lines of “I don’t know anything about computers but everything in life should bend to my will if I get annoyed so why doesn’t this?”. You can spot the posts – they are peppered with bad language, have no respect for the poster or reader and have usually missed the point the original poster was [helpfully] making. They also expect far more from the equipment than was ever stated and parade their ignorance by going into details about how they were told (e.g.) [no – they misunderstood] that they could order toast on it whilst in another country.
    Interestingly these are the same types of people who abuse BT support staff – don’t they realise that they have fat chance of getting *any* help! So I read between the lines with the posts that start off “This is c**p” – there is a story there.
    Also the posts usually end “can anyone help?” – why would anyone want to with an attitude like that! ‘Spoilt’ and ‘brats’ usually comes to mind.
    Anyway – the Home Hub is almost the same as the Wanadoo Live Box – it’s an advanced bit of kit that I am glad the ISP’s have dared to launch on the market so that folk who don’t expect to get everything done for them can actually get more out of their broadband service – and I was surprised when my mate set it up so quickly as I usually use his feedback as a bench mark (LOL).
    If you want anything extra out of it other than what BT already support then be warned – it’s not for the “Yeah but, no but, yeah but …” brigade :-)

  8. Hi. I too read a number of websites with tales of woe about the BT homehub and how poor it was, which seemed a shame as it seemed the perfect answer for someone like me – life is too short to spend it getting XYZ computer to work with ABC modem. – Guess that is why I love Mac, have worked out of the box for years – Called a friend who has worked with networks since they were bits of string with cans on the end and who supports many hunreds of users – both on site and home working as to what I should uses. “Same as me” he replies, “A BT HomeHub”. I questioned why people were posting all these problems and he thought that either a) they had received a dff hub or b) they thought they knew more about networks etc than they really do. He uses them for home workers as they are so simple to set up and work. They make his life easy and he uses one at home – when he has access to all and anything he chooses – because it does the job.

    He did look at some of the problem pages and yes agreed that either people were trying to get the hub to do things that it should not (and good luck to them if they can) so it is not the fault of the hub if it does not, or from the details they have posted, many do have a misplaced idea of their own knowledge and capability.

    I think there were probably a number of issues with the early shipments – most of the problem pages seem to be quite dated, or simple problems have been blown out of proportion due to the dire state of BT support at present – which has been outsourced because WE want cheap rather than good, untill we need the support….

  9. My experience of the whole Homehub thing has been a miserable disappointment. I have my own router which I have been using for nearly two years and had no real issues. I received a call from BT’s call centres in India. The chap was using all sorts of cowboy tactics on me. I was sold, because the contract was cheaper. The contract came with the Homehub and I was told I’d get the phone with it too. The homehub arrived, but no phone. I rang BT to have a big go at them. When I finally set the Homehub up, well it was hardly great. It takes too long to set up and I object to having all that BTinternet software on my computer. I use Firefox, so it is a waste of time installing all sorts of extensions on Explorer. They really know how to complicate things and for what?

    The Homehub is a gimmick and I would not have paid for this. It is slow to boot up(10 mins) and twice the size and volume of my old router. Not to mention a weak signal in a small house. I wished I haven’t bothered, because I never wanted a Homehub in the first place. If you are a serious net user, don’t bother. My Homehub is coming down and my old router going back up. I’m selling mine on eBay. What a load of rubbish!

  10. Am I missing the point here? I have had the BTHomeHub for about a week, and it is OK….just OK…

    Bad points are:-
    1. 2 ethernet connections………errrr I knew that before I signed up….
    2. No Printer Server…..errrr I knew that before I signed up….
    3. Installs loads and loads of software…….errr un-install it….
    4. Configuration issues……..it is supposed to be basic, that is the point….
    I am sure there are others, but you can’t buy a Ford, and expect it to act like Mercedes……………..

    As mentioned before, for the basic webuser, it is ideal. Easy to set up and does the job.

    A few people have made the comment that they would never have bought it and their old router was much better………..well….you didn’t buy it and the old router is always an option!!!

  11. well it’s wonderful to see such positive responses from computer geeks.. Rikard, you’re ignorant and appear happy to sink to the level of the users you are insulting… If they offend you so severly..officially complain..instead of ‘throwing your dolly out of the pram’ I came on to this site to see if anybody could offer me advice on the possibility of configuring my bt home hub to my pipex broadband and all i see is silly comments from snide geeks who think they are superior.. usually because they sit on their fat arses all day in front of their monitors as they have no friends and the internet is their sole purpose of existance.thank you for your help, its been a pleasure

  12. Well said Siobhan! I too found Rikard out of touch and ignorant of the subject.
    BT make huge amounts of money selling products which in most cases are of poor quality and they are sold as easy to use and everyone should have one.
    I believe everyone should have access to new technology and if you are in the business of selling it you should either tell the truth that it can be difficult to use or provide support to those who become out of their depth. And don’t forget the people you ridicule may be way ahead of you in their own field. People have a right to complain if what was sold as simple to use turns out not so. Further if you do not want to help what are you doing here. GROW UP!!

  13. I have a Grandstream 2000 which I used successfully with a sipgate account and a 2wire 541 router for 3 phone numbers by sorting out the port forwarding. I am giving the phone to my niece who has a BT Home Hub but I am struggling to configure it to get it working. I have dabbled with changing some of the BT Home Hub Applications for ports 5060 – 5068 but to no avail. If anyone could give me detailed knowledge on how to configure it and it then works I will send you an Easter egg. My knowledge on the subject is fairly limited.

  14. Adrian – any chance you can give advice for us two very novice broadband users? We have just received the BT Home Hub. We have 2 laptops – both without built in wi-fi. So we went into Currys and asked their advice on how to link up wirelessly. They advised the Belkin Wireless G USB Network Adapter. We set up the hub, then set up the Belkin on my laptop – an IBM R50e. On the (Belkin) window which shows which wireless connections are available, it does say the BT Home Hub has been found. But when we continued with the Home Hub set up CD, it just wouldn’t connect.
    Being novices, we called BT Broadband’s helpline, and after 75 minutes of someone remotely accessing our laptop, she said that the Belkin is conflicting with the hub and laptop. She said that each time we turn off the laptop, we will lose the wireless connection, but not to worry, just right click over the icon and choose REPAIR. This, by the way, hasn’t worked!!! We called BT again and they told us to take the adapter back. Having read that you used a Belkin, just wanted some advice. I just want to know how to fix it so we can have wireless! Is it worth purchasing the BT network adapter??
    Any help much appreciated!
    Thanks.

  15. ok the speed and everything with the bt home hub is great but im recieving a really weak signal even when i wired it with the ethernet cable and i have no idea why.. i saw u mention that it takes about 10 days to stabilise and everything but i was just wondering if at any time did your signal strength drop below 15%? and im definetly within the hubs range.

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