Sky has become the first UK broadband provider to let customers upgrade to fibre broadband without the gamble of an Openreach engineer visit.
The new Sky Hub is the first router from a major UK ISP with a built-in VDSL modem for FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) broadband, which customers can self-install.
From today, customers upgrading Sky’s Fibre Unlimited broadband will have to just swap their old Sky Hub for the new fibre-ready Hub on their upgrade day.
Lyssa McGowan, Sky’s brand director for communications products, said: “This is a market first. No other provider is able to offer this technology and this experience.
“There’ll be no more waiting in for engineers when you want to upgrade to fibre. You don’t have to do anything at all, other than receive our fibre hub through the front door, plug it in on the day you’re switching to fibre, and it will work.
“It’s absolutely seamless, and you also don’t need two pieces of equipment any more. You don’t need a modem and a router – we’ve put both of them into one clever little box, and that’s all you need.”
All new Sky Broadband susbcribers will get the new Hub as standard, making it very easy for them to upgrade to fibre later on.
Not only will this make it faster and cheaper for Sky to connect fibre broadband customers, there will also be less opportunity for it to go wrong by involving BT Openreach.
Sky has been trialling self-install modems for several months, while BT’s new Home Hub 5 is ready for self-install but BT has said engineer installs will continue to be the only option for some time.
The black SR102 Sky Fibre Hub connects to your BT master socket via a VDSL microfilter (supplied, with a second for your home phone).
It’s otherwise similar to the standard white SR101 Sky Hub, with 802.11n WiFi on 2.4GHz for up to 144Mbps via 2×2 MIMO antennas, and four Ethernet ports, but they’re only 100Mbps.
Like the current Sky Hub, it’s also set up to connect via Ethernet or WiFi to your Sky+HD for Sky On Demand, with a special indicator on the front.
How do fibre broadband installations work?
Currently, fibre broadband installs for most UK ISPs require a BT Openreach engineer to switch you on at the nearest fibre cabinet and then install a BT VDSL modem next to your BT master socket.
Your ISP’s router then plugs into the BT modem, but the Sky Fibre Hub does both jobs and is pre-configured for the Openreach VDSL network.
Openreach will only have to visit the cabinet and flick the switch for your line – even this has to be done manually.
VDSL is the technology which allows Openreach to deliver very high speeds over your copper phone line in the short distance to the fibre cabinet, where it joins a high capacity fibre connection for the longer haul back to your local exchange.
Unfortunately, as user forums across Sky, TalkTalk other ISPs and user communities can attest, the Openreach engineer visit is often the weak link in a fibre install.
Customers can’t contact Openreach direct, so any problems can only be dealt with via a lengthy bureaucratic process by your ISP, which has to rebook the appointment and is often penalised by Openreach, no matter who was at fault.
It’s a situation which has lead some ISPs to complain to communications regulator Ofcom about Openreach’s performance.