Hidden cost of your broadband: Does BT, Virgin Media, or TalkTalk's Wi-Fi router use the most electricity?

a woman sits cross-legged on the floor and plugs an ethernet cable into the back of her wi-fi router to get internet running

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Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 09/04/2024

- 06:30

Updated: 09/04/2024

- 10:00

Costs vary between £17.02 and £58.43

  • Energy cost of running Wi-Fi routers from major broadband suppliers calculated
  • There's over £41 difference between the most affordable and priciest router
  • These costs are on-top of the monthly cost for your chosen broadband speed
  • All major broadband suppliers increased monthly bills at the start of this month

When you think about the cost of your broadband, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the monthly fee to your supplier — a cost that's likely to skyrocket by as much as 8.8% in the coming days — but there's another price to ensure you've got internet at home. Wi-Fi routers, which beam wireless internet around your home to connect your phone, tablet, speakers and laptop to the web, are usually running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Most broadband providers will send out a Wi-Fi router to you at the beginning of your contract free of charge. Not all of these routers are created equally — some offer faster Wi-Fi 6 speeds, while others boast ethernet ports capable of delivering wired speeds of 10Gbps — and they certainly don't all use the same amount of electricity.

virgin media hub 5 wi-fi router is pictured on a wooden shelf with dried flowers and photo frames nearby

Virgin Media's Hub 5 Wi-Fi router, pictured, was one of the models tested in the latest head-to-head. This high-end Wi-Fi router is sent-out to anyone on the fastest fibre speeds, including its Gig1 plan that tops-out at 1,000Mbps


The team at ISPreview has pitted the Wi-Fi routers bundled by the UK's biggest broadband providers against one another to determine which costs the most to run. During its tests, it discovered a big difference in efficiency between the Wi-Fi routers from BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, and Sky.

Here's the breakdown of each Wi-Fi router and how much it'll cost you:

  • TalkTalk | Hub 1 | £17.02 per year (idle) £26.93 per year (actively running)
  • TalkTalk | Hub 2 | £18.52 per year (idle) £26.93 per year (actively running)
  • BT | Smart Hub 2 | £21.54 per year (idle) £35.82 per year (actively running)
  • BT / EE | Smart Hub Plus | £26.57 per year (idle) £58.43 per year (actively running)
  • Sky | Sky Q Wi-Fi | £21.59 per year (idle) £27.94 per year (actively running)
  • Sky | Broadband Hub | £25.40 per year (both idle and actively running)
  • Vodafone | Wi-Fi Hub | £16.51 per year (idle) £28.35 per year (actively running)
  • Vodafone | Ultra Hub | £21.59 per year (idle) £36.40 per year (actively running)
  • Virgin Media | Hub 4 | £30.48 per year (idle) £38.87 per year (actively running)
  • Virgin Media | Hub 5 | £34.27 per year (idle) £39.40 per year (actively running)
  • Virgin Media | Hub 5x | £23.30 per year (idle) £30.15 per year (actively running)

The above calculations from ISPreview are based on the average energy prices from January - March, so it'll likely be a little cheaper to run these Wi-Fi routers now that the lower energy price cap has kicked in.

As such, it's worth taking the above prices with a pinch of salt, although the comparison between Wi-Fi routers from different brands still stands. Likewise, the difference in cost between basic Wi-Fi routers and the flagship models, like the EE Smart Hub Plus and Virgin Media Hub 5, which both support the newer Wi-Fi 6 standard, is worth remembering. If you're not paying for broadband speeds that will benefit from this improved wireless standard, it might be worth swapping out your Wi-Fi router for something more rudimentary.

The cost of running one of these Wi-Fi routers for a year is roughly the same as powering two LED lightbulbs (roughly 4-8 Watts, depending on the model), so it's unlikely to make a huge dent in your savings account.

However, with broadband prices rising in line with inflation — potentially for the last time — and the cost of living crisis impacting almost every aspect of life, those on the lowest incomes could notice the difference between some of these Wi-Fi router models.

If you're concerned about the annual cost of running a Wi-Fi router, switching it off when you're not actively using the internet is not advisable. Every major Internet Service Provider (ISP) recommends keeping its equipment up and running 24 hours a day as important firmware updates for Wi-Fi routers are usually installed overnight to minimise disruption.


Not only that, but switching off your Wi-Fi router on a regular basis can send signals to your provider that something is wrong with the line. When this is detected, internet service providers can place emergency speed restrictions on your broadband connection.

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