Network kits for networking / Wi-Fi systems have become quite popular in recent years. Despite competition from startups such as eero (now part of Amazon) and Plume (with a forced subscription), as well as large companies like Google (Google Wi-Fi and Nest Wi-Fi), Netgear Orbi continues to enjoy popularity in the market. Orbi’s use of a dedicated backhaul provides tangible benefits over other Wi-Fi systems that use shared backhauls. However, the cost associated with the extra radio meant that Orbi Wi-Fi systems always had a premium compared to the average market offering in space.
Netgear unveiled its first Wi-Fi 6E router – the Nighthawk RAXE500 – at CES in 2021. Priced at $ 600, the router used the Broadcom platform (BCM4908 network processor SoC + BCM46384 4-stream 802.11an / ac / ax radio). Today, the company is updating the Orbi line with a Wi-Fi 6E offering that belongs to the AX11000 class. Based on Qualcomm’s Hawkeye (IPQ8074) / Pine (QCN9074) platform, the company advertises its RBKE960 Orbi series as the world’s first four-band Wi-Fi 6E network system.
Netgear’s premium Orbi sets have traditionally been three-band solutions, with a second 5 GHz channel as the dedicated backhaul. With Wi-Fi 6E, a three-band solution is required — 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz support is required for certification. A 6 GHz channel, as explained earlier, opens multiple 160 MHz channels that are jam-free. The RBKE960 series supports three defined bands, and also retains a dedicated 5 GHz backhaul, making it a four-band solution with combined Wi-Fi speeds of up to 10.8 Gbps on all four considered together.
Netgear has decided to keep 5 GHz for the backhaul to increase the range. Although the 6 GHz band has no interference, power limitations prevent communication in these channels with the same range as the existing 5 GHz. Having a backhaul ensures that all fronthaul channels are available for client devices (a common backhaul results in a 50% reduction in speeds available for client devices for each additional node / satellite). The benefits of Wi-Fi 6E and what consumers can expect from the 6GHz band have already been covered in detail in our Nighthawk RAXE500 launch. The Orbi RBKE960 series supports up to seven 160 MHz channels, enabling interference-free operation even in dense multi-neighbor apartments.
The RBKE960 supports 16 Wi-Fi streams, making it an extremely complex antenna design. Netgear has made improvements based on previous experience to the extent that the new Orbi RBKE960 works better than the Orbi RBK850 even for communication at 5 GHz (larger unit size also plays a role in this).
In terms of hardware features, the router has a 10G WAN port, 3x 1GbE and 1x 2.5GBASE-T ports. The satellite does not have a WAN port, but retains the other three. The 2.5 GBASE-T port can be used to create Ethernet feedback between the router and the satellite. On the software side, the new Orbi creates four separate Wi-Fi networks for different uses.
The reduced range in the 6 GHz band means that large houses could need more satellites to cover the entire area with 6 GHz coverage.
Installation and management via the Orbi application. Netgear also includes the NETGEAR Armor cyber security package with integrated parental controls — some features in Armor are subscription-based.
Netgear also presents the ‘Orbi Black Edition’ available exclusively on Netgear’s website. Given that the RAXE500 has set the stage with a price tag of $ 600, it’s no surprise that the RBSE960 satellite costs the same (a replacement for the WAN port and other features for the optional 4×4 radio). A kit with a router and a single satellite (RBKE962) costs $ 1,100, while the RBKE963 (optional satellite) raises the price to $ 1,500. As home Wi-Fi has become a necessity thanks, among other things, to the trend of working from home, Netgear believes that consumers will be willing to set aside what is essentially the price of a high-end smartphone or laptop for reliable Wi-Fi that is secure in the future – Fi solution.
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