Claire Nottage | October 17th, 2022
If you have ever experienced the frustration of your broadband connection dropping out in the middle of a film, whilst gaming, or in the middle of a Zoom call, you will be pleased to know that a solution is now available in the form of BT Hybrid Connect, a 4G back-up system to ensure that you are always online.
For a few extra pounds a month, BT will provide you with an additional router, powered by EE 4G, which, should your main BT broadband connection fall over, will boot up and keep you online until your broadband service is restored. In this guide, we take a look at how to get BT Hybrid Connect, whether it is worth it, and what alternatives there are for a broadband back-up system.
BT Hybrid Connect offers guaranteed wifi by pairing a BT Smart Hub router with a 4G router to provide a constant internet connection should your broadband drop out. Advertised as “unbreakable wifi”, BT Hybrid Connect ensures that, short of there being a complete power failure, you will never be left without a broadband connection.
The Hybrid Connect is a neat, black, oval box, much the same size as the BT Smart Hub. Ideally it should be connected with an ethernet cable to your router, and requires a separate power supply. If you cannot connect it with an ethernet cable, the Hybrid Connect can connect to the Smart Hub wirelessly, but the signal will not be as strong.
In the event that your BT broadband connection goes down, the Hybrid Connect will automatically kick in, and supply you with a download speed averaging 30Mbps. This is likely to be less than your broadband speed, but is enough to keep you online until your broadband connection is restored, at which point the Smart Hub 2 will take over the job again.
BT Hybrid Connect is a handy concept for ensuring that you never lose a broadband connection – ideal for home workers and anyone who relies on a constant internet connection. Gamers will never have to suffer losing due to broadband dropout and anyone who enjoys streaming movies won’t have their evening’s entertainment spoilt by a loss of connection.
BT bought mobile provider EE back in 2015 and uses the network to supply all its mobile services under the BT brand name, including its 4G Hybrid Connect router. The EE 4G network has a good reputation for speed, reliability and coverage, so is the ideal network for a broadband back-up service. Covering 99% of the UK, it is more than likely that you will be able to receive an EE 4G signal at your property.
Although the Hybrid Connect needs to be connected to the Smart Hub 2 via an ethernet cable initially, you can move it around your house in order to pick up the best EE signal. It will work better when it is connected directly to your router, but if you get a better signal upstairs rather than downstairs, for example, you can move it and it will still supply you with a 4G back-up when needed.
Customers looking for both a reliable wifi signal around their house as well as the reassurance of unbreakable wifi can choose to sign up to BT Halo 3. This package includes both Hybrid Connect to keep you online and BT Complete Wifi. Complete Wifi guarantees you will receive an absolute minimum wifi speed of 10Mbps in every room of your house, by creating a mesh network using discs set around your home. And if you can't get that 10Mbps minimum speed, BT offers a £100 money-back guarantee.
BT Hybrid Connect costs just £7 per month on its own and can be added if you are either a new customer or an existing one. Existing superfast fibre customers with the original Smart Hub will need to upgrade to BT Halo 3 to get BT Hybrid Connect as it only works with the Smart Hub 2, which customers receive when they sign up for BT Halo 3. New BT broadband customers can choose to have BT Hybrid Connect from the word go.
Although BT Hybrid Connect promotes “unbreakable wifi” as its unique selling point, by offering it in the first place BT seems to be suggesting that its broadband service can be unreliable. With the increasing availability of fibre connections, broadband that drops in and out for large amounts of time is largely a thing of the past, so unless you have experience of an unreliable connection, its arguable whether you even need a 4G back-up service at all.
It’s worth pointing out that although the 4G connection will automatically kick in if your broadband does drop out, it isn’t an instantaneous transition, so if you are in the middle of streaming TV, making a Zoom call, or gaming, you are likely to experience a brief drop out of up to a minute or so, which can still be annoying.
Another downside is that if you have a TV service that comes through your broadband connection, such as BT TV or Virgin Media, your Hybrid Connect will not support this, so you won’t be able to watch TV. If you watch via a streaming app however, you will be able to keep watching as the device on which you are streaming will connect to your Hybrid Connect.
If you are used to a fast fibre speed at home of 50Mbps or more, you may find that your devices start to struggle due to the slower speed offered by EE 4G. BT claims that the average you can expect from your Hybrid Connect is around 30Mbps, and the most you are likely to get is 40Mbps. Although this is ample for performing regular tasks such as browsing, emailing, and streaming, it will not support large numbers of devices, multiple video streams or a large household where everyone is online at once. Be prepared for a few complaints.
The BT Hybrid Connect is roughly the same size as the Smart Hub 2. Although not a problem in itself, it does mean more equipment cluttering up your home. In comparison, the small dongle offered by Vodafone Pro, for example, that plugs straight into the router is far more unobtrusive than the Hybrid Connect.
With the cost of electricity being top of everyone’s minds, the fact that the Hybrid Connect requires its own power supply could put some people off. If you already have a reliable broadband connection, the extra monthly cost of the router and the extra electricity usage may make some think twice as to whether it’s worth it.
BT isn’t the only broadband provider to offer a 4G back-up system to its customers. Virgin Media offers its Back-up Hub – a 4G router powered by O2. Vodafone offers its Vodafone Pro service, which comes with a 4G dongle that plugs into your router, as well as a signal booster to ensure you get a good wifi signal all round your home. EE broadband comes with the 4GEE WiFi Mini, to which EE will add a complimentary 250GB of data if your broadband connection goes down, to keep you online until it is fixed.
Sky broadband only offers a 4G back-up service to business users at the time of writing, although this may change in the future.
There are other options if you feel that you need a 4G back-up system for your home broadband and don’t want BT Hybrid Connect. Most mobile networks now offer customers a 4G or even 5G home broadband service, whereby you pay a monthly fee for your data (up to unlimited data options are available), and you are supplied with a 4G/5G router to supply a wifi signal. However, this will work out considerably more expensive than taking Hybrid Connect as an add-on.
Taking out your own 4G/5G home broadband service will also mean you will have to manually switch the service over in the event of your broadband service dropping out. The only way to enable it to kick in automatically is to buy a new combination router that supports both your broadband signal and a 4G/5G signal, but this requires both additional expense and a decent degree of technical knowhow.
Another alternative is to get a 4G/5G mifi unit from a mobile provider. This is a small, portable router that you can use to create a wifi signal wherever you are. Again, it will only support a handful of devices and is likely to offer the same sort of speeds as a Hybrid Connect, unless you can receive a good 5G signal in your home, in which case you can receive a download speed of around 100Mbps – ample for supporting a number of devices at once. Unfortunately this will still be much more expensive than paying for a Hybrid Connect or similar.
FInally, you can simply use your mobile data to stay online, by tethering specific devices to it. This is ideal should you just need to keep a laptop or tablet connected, for example, but is not a viable option for supporting a whole houseful of people and devices. Plus, unless you have an unlimited deal, you will consume your entire monthly data allowance very rapidly.
BT Hybrid Connect provides your home with an emergency 4G back-up service that will automatically kick in to keep you online if your broadband connection goes down.
Hybrid Connect provides you with a 4G back up signal. Complete Wifi provides you with a mesh network to give you a good signal throughout your home. BT Halo is the umbrella term for taking both these products together in a bundle.
At the time of writing, Hybrid Connect costs an extra £7 per month and requires a 24-month contract.
No. Hybrid Connect only works as an add-on for a BT broadband service with BT Smart Hub 2.