Billion is back and solid as usual, but the rest of the industry has moved on.
Billion has been in the ADSL modem game for decades, right at the very start of ADSL technology rolling out in Australia. Their latest high-end home and SOHO router is the BiPAC 8700VAX and it is packed with features like VoIP and VDSL2 for FTTN NBN connections at a friendly price-point.
The BiPAC 8700VAX has three WAN ports - a VDSL2/ADSL2 connection, a Gigabit Ethernet port or the ability to use the USB port with a 4G modem for redundancy. Rounding out the ports is 4-port Gigabit Ethernet (if the Ethernet WAN port isn’t in use, it can be a 5th switch port) and two RJ-11 FXS ports for hooking up landline telephones to VoIP services.
For those who are still using a landline, VOIP is fully supported on the BiPAC 8700VAX, with a range of audio codecs, telephony features (call waiting, echo cancellation, voice activity detection to name a few) and SIP protocols built in. Impressive for a modem router that’s only $229.
Wi-Fi on the BiPAC 8700VAX is handled by a dual radio 802.11ac chip, with support for three spatial streams for MIMO that’s capable of a theoretical maximum of 1300 Mbps on 5GHz and 300 Mbps on 2.4GHz. Billion makes no mention of beamforming capabilities, which is becoming common on similar mid-priced routers. There’s only 128MB of RAM in the BiPAC 8700VAX, but that’s not unusual for a router at this price-point and it can handle a large amount of BitTorrent action fine - just not an obscene amount of BitTorrent action.
Billion’s website is nice enough to put up a demonstration page of the BiPAC 8700VAX’s user interface, so you can see all its features and what it’s like to set the unit up. Unfortunately, this is where Billion falls behind more advanced competitors like Asus and Netgear.
For starters, the interface is very bland and not user friendly. The more tech savvy individuals who have been setting up routers for decades mighty appreciate the plain UI, but the average user would not find this intuitive at all compared to the super easy to set up wizards in other routers. Even something as common as connecting to an OpenVPN server is intimidating compared to the ease of doing so on an Asus router. Setting up QoS rules is confusing and that’s not acceptable for a router aimed at consumers in 2018.
Then there’s the fact Billion has no smartphone or tablet app. Using a desktop PC to set up a router is so mid-2000s. It’s not unreasonable to expect an app with often used features (i.e: setting Wi-Fi schedules, enabling/disabling VPN connections, viewing a list of connected Wi-Fi devices, modifying QoS rules via application types) readily available to tweak without having to move over to a desktop computer and load up the router’s full administration interface.
Most telling is the lack of useful advanced features found on competitor’s units. For example, Asus has AiMesh for linking up multiple routers around the home, AiCloud to access your files anywhere on the Internet and easy to use and advanced content filtering with AiProtection. Billion has none of those features that make life easy for the users. That isn’t to say the Billion lacks features, it has most that a typical user would need, they’re just hidden under layers of jargon that their competitors make easy to configure.
Billion’s hardware is solid, and the price is right at $229, but the home Wi-Fi market is saturated with competition these days. Billion hasn’t changed a thing for over a decade now and it’s starting to show. If you don’t need VoIP support, there are more modern units like the Netgear D6400 that’ll do a better job and be easier to use. But if you need a VDSL2 modem with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and full VoIP support that won’t break the bank, Billion has you covered with the BiPAC 8700VAX.