I met with three of Linksys’s US executives, Lisa Burkhart, Director of Marketing, Brian Nickel, Head of Modem Product Development, and Justin Doucette, Head of Linksys Global Business Unit. Accompanying them was Greg Morrison, Business Manager of Linksys Australia. They were here to launch a new Linksys AC750, X6200 small home router – more details at the end of the article.
Back in November 2015 I interviewed Doucette and Morrison and since then there have been a raft of releases including its Max-Stream AC1900 and AC2600, and announcements at CES 2016 in January. All of which have helped Linksys sell more than 100 million routers globally.
It was not so much of an interview as a chat about trends. Responses have been paraphrased accordingly.
Everyone needs a better router
Almost everyone who walks into a computer store could use a better router. The majority are still using N speeds (single 2.4GHz 300 to 600 Mbps) and the usual replacement cycle is about five years. “Too many put up with slow speeds because they don’t know what these new AC routers can do.”
During that typical replacement cycle internet access speeds have improved – ADSL2+, VDSL over copper, DOCSIS (cable gateway) and fibre NBN offer from a about 10 to 100 Mbps or even higher. In that time the number of connected items (Internet of Things, Streaming TV, Games consoles, speakers) and their speed requirements have dramatically increased.
While it is true that you cannot get any faster speeds that your internet connection, a better router will be more efficient in sharing that speed with multiple devices and offering better Wi-Fi signal strengths.
Newer routers offer 2.4GHZ Wi-Fi for legacy end-points, 5GHz for newer end-points, Wave 2, beamforming, MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input/output) and even dedicated bands to place bandwidth hogs like streaming TVs on.
Linksys routers have a variety of connection options – ADSL, WAN (VDSL/Cable) and support the latest transmission standards and NBN.
Router is a complex term
Linksys inherited a lot of good, heavy tech from its previous owners CISCO. BUT Linksys needs to become more a lifestyle product. ”We are thinking that the term connected family is right for us.”
Burkhart made a throwaway line about needing to replace the term router with something less intimidating. “It is all about access to the internet – not routing.” We agreed that Wi-Fi was probably the best understood term. “I think we have to shift people’s perspective of what the internet is and how we access it. Its not networking – its Wi-Fi.”
Part of the issue is that many people don’t understand, and therefore are afraid of, the technology behind a router – having had to get a techy in the past to install and configure it. Linksys now has a smartphone app (iOS and Android) to make set-up very easy. Of course there is also auto-configuration via a CD or web browser.
Burkhart’s challenge is to make routers more user friendly – more of a lifestyle, plug and forget item. I had noticed that Linksys’s web site had taken on a more user friendly approach in explaining what routers were used for, why you needed a specific size etc.
Why do you have a range of routers – sorry lifestyle experiences
The easiest way to answer that is that you have small, medium, large, and SUV style cars and all do a different job.
If you live in a small apartment, only have a smartphone, tablet, computer and TV then a smaller AC750 like our new Linksys X6200 is perfect – why waste money when all you need is dual band, ADSL/VDLS/WAN connectivity that only delivers 10-100Mbps internet speed anyway.
If you live in a medium size house with a couple of kids and say 10 or so devices, then you may need a stronger Wi-Fi signal to reach the outermost rooms and you may want to put different devices on different bands. Our AC1200 EA6450 is the best fit.
If you live in a larger home and have lots of devices – security camera’s, multiple tablets, IoT, and more, then the AC2600, EA8500 is perfect.
If you need a SUV to tow a caravan then the AC3200, EA9200 tri-band (1 x 2.4GHZ, 2 x 5GHz) is best. But we all don’t need $400 router.
And your needs may change so that is why we have range extenders starting well under $100. Soon we will offer USB extenders to add dual band, MIMO and other features to devices that don’t have that sophistication.
We spoke about channel congestion
As we were speaking I was trying to access public Wi-Fi and there were more than 40 SSID showing. All Nickell could say was that software and firmware needs to become smarter to avoid conflicting 2.4GHz channels and that is coming. It will all come down to how easy you can make the setup and once you have it for right for your needs ensuring the rest of the world does not overlap or interfere. Things like seamless roaming will become the norm (where you swap from channel to channel without signal loss as you move throughout a house).
What is going to drive router sales?
In Australia, it is going to be NBN and the need for more speed. So don’t wait – buy any Max-Stream, Wave 2, MIMO, WAN/ADSL/VDSL equipped router today and start enjoying better Wi-Fi – the NBN will come one day and you will have the right router.
It is also going to be 4K streaming and more connected devices – but that won’t happen until you can get more internet speed.
First looks – Linksys X6200 A$189.95
The X6200 is a fully featured AC750, ADSL/VDSL/WAN modem that has 2.4GHz (300) and 5GHz (433) Mbps and its ideal for small dwellings and a smaller number of connected devices. It’s the small car we spoke of earlier.
It has one USB port for an external hard disk or flash drive, 4 x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports (for TV, Foxtel, etc.), one ADSL/VDSL and a WAN port for Internet connectivity (NBN) and app/CD/Browser automatic setup.
“Our new modem router provides an ADSL/VDSL modem and a router for an all-in-one seamless wireless broadband networking experience – a crucial requirement for people wanting to make the most of their premium broadband services”, said Greg Morrison, business unit director, Linksys ANZ.
“With the varied connectivity solutions currently rolled out with the National Broadband Network, the X6200 is truly the perfect all in one device for the small Aussie home. Providing ADSL2+ for now, VDSL for the NBN fibre to the node solution and a router for your fibre to the home solution – it is the Modem Router for Today and Tomorrow”, he added.