Dan Howdle | October 12th, 2023
Wifi guarantees are a common offering from the major broadband providers these days. They offere variously worded promises that you'll get wifi of a specified quality in every room of your house, usually followed by a series of nuanced rules defining what they really mean by 'every room'.
To facilitate these guarantees, providers have had to add additional equipment in the form of mesh wifi extenders. BT for example has its 'Whole Home Wi-Fi' with its 'disc' wifi extenders. Virgin Media's version in called WiFi Max, and it calls its mesh devices 'WiFi Pods'. In this guide we're going to take a look at both the pods themselves – what they are, where you put them and how to get them – as well as the packages and costs in which they do and don't appear.
The WiFi Max Guarantee promises at least 30Mbps of wifi in every room of your house or, failing that, a £100 bill credit (with various caveats and conditions attached which we'll get into later. So let's be clear up front: If you have a very small home or flat, you can probably stop reading here, since Virgin Media's main router is likely to easily reach every corner of your home without the need for the WiFi Pods. If your house is quite large and you've a history if issues with wifi reaching certain rooms, then do read on.
WiFi Max is an add-on service you can get with any Virgin Media broadband deal. At the time of writing it costs an additional £8 per month on top of your existing Virgin Media bill. However, WiFi Max is free if you opt for the highest speed or the largest bundle (Gig1 or Ultimate Volt respectively) – in those two circumstances the additional £8 per month is waived and the guarantee bundled in as standard.
Unlike similar add-ons from the likes of Sky with its Sky WiFi Max (goodness knows why these providers can't think of unique names for their stuff), which offer additional benefits beyond the wifi guarantee, Virgin Media's WiFi Max is a guarantee, with up to three WiFi Pods (mesh extenders) and that's all.
Most of you will be familiar with what a router does. It takes the internet signal coming into your home and 'routes' it to your devices either via wifi or a LAN cable. Mesh wifi uses additional, smaller devices whose job is simply to relay the signal from the router, thereby extending the range to a new area previously unreachable by your router alone.
You'll get up to three of them with either your WiFi Max add-on, which you'll have to ask for and pay an extra £8 per month if you're not on Gig1 or subscribe to the Ultimate Volt Bundle. Even if you do subscribe to those highest-tier services and so get WiFi Max for free, you will still need to ask for the WiFi Pods if you need them.
The WiFi Pods themselves are small, hexagonal devices that look a little like a plug-in air freshener, and function in the same way – you plug them into a spare socket in the room at the furthest point in your house where you still get good wifi signal and that's adjacent to the spot or spots where you don't. There's then a button to press on the Pod, and then one to press on your router to get them to recognise one another and you're good to go. You should now have decent wifi in your dead spots.
If you have your heart set on Virgin Media you're probably not too fussed about what the competition offers in term so their mesh extenders and whole home wifi guarantees. If this is the central factor in your decision as to what provider to go for, then it's worth bearing in mind what's offered by the competition. And in the case of mesh wifi guarantees, that's BT and Sky.
|Virgin WiFi Max
|Sky WiFi Max
|BT Complete WiFi
|Sky Max Hub
|Hub 3, 4 or 5
|Sky Max Hub
|BT Smart Hub 2
|Gig1 or Volt
|Strong' wifi signal, every room
|Up to three Max Pods
|Up to three Max Pods
|Up to 3 'Discs'
|Free anytime engineer visits
|£100 bill credit
|1 month free
The Pods work by extending your wifi signal beyond the normal reach of your router. Think about it as a man shouting from one hill to a man on a third hill who can't hear him. A man on a second hill that's halfway between the two can hear the first man, and can repeat the message so the third man can hear it. Got it? Good. Getting up and running with Virgin Media WiFi Max is a pretty straightforward process. It goes as follows:
You'll only find ready-made mesh wifi solutions from the biggest providers right now, from some 'altnet' providers who run their own networks, or by installing your own router and mesh network yourself. Whichever of these options you go for, there's a cost attached. And realistically £8 per month isn't all that much.
We're pretty sure that mesh wifi will be offered as standard at no extra charge in the future, but we're not there quite yet, so competing solutions from Sky and BT are certainly worth considering (see the comparison in the middle of this guide). The WiFi Max Pods are super-simple to install and address a real problem for any home over a certain size or of a particularly solid construction (wifi hates big, thick walls).
It's great that Virgin Media at least offers this for free at the top end of its packages. If you were planning to go mid-tier in terms of broadband speeds and a features (the M350 or M500 packages for example), upgrading to Gig1 will cost you about that extra £8 anyway. So why not, if you need a mesh solution such as WiFi Max, just go for that Gig1 package an pay the same price?