Mesh is the buzz word in the networking industry with products from eero, Google and Netgear already available. During CES this year, both Norton and Linksys introduced their new products and while Norton has a while to go, a team from Linksys HQ in the US flew down to Dubai to launch it’s new Velop WiFi system in the region.
Linksys CEO and Founder, Chet Pipkin, explained how our WiFi needs have changed compared to when the technology was first introduced. He mentioned that Netflix usage in the US now exceeds DVR usage which gives us a glimpse into how much bandwidth is needed. And it’s safe to assume that most of the devices you’ll be watching on are connected wirelessly.
A single router can work fine when you have a small area to cover but for people living in villas or large apartments, mesh networking is the way to go. Increasing coverage using extenders has been possible in the past, but an extender usually results in slower WiFi speeds, dead spots and, multiple networks with their own IDs. Mesh networks solves all these issues and with Velop, Linksys says that you can add up to ten nodes to form one giant network with no speed degradation under a single WiFi name and password.
Each of the nodes can cover about 2000 sq.ft of area and Linksys will sell them either individually or packs of two or three priced at AED 999, 1599 and 1999 respectively. Each node is identical in terms of specs - so any of the nodes can be used as a master node connected to your ISP’s modem. The solution works with both Etisalat and du from the UAE as well as telcos from Saudi and Qatar.
So what makes the Linksys Velop different to other mesh networking devices like eero or Google WiFi? Justin Doucette, Senior Director and Global Product Management mentioned that currently, only Netgear and Linksys have a triband mesh solution. However, Netgear isn’t a true mesh network and requires a separate, dedicated router that work with satellites. Eero on the other hand, is a good example of mesh networking done well but their challenge is that it only uses a dual band instead of a triband. Also, Linksys Velop is currently the only mesh solution that’s officially available in the Middle East.
I asked Justin if, in the future, it would be possible to mix and match mesh nodes between different provides. He said that while this was technically possible, the challenges are in user-experience, performance and interoperability. “Take range extenders for example. You can have a Netgear gateway and a Linksys range extender and it’ll work- but the performance and experience you get isn't the best. By owning both the endpoints, we can curate that experience.”
Linksys Velop will be available at major retailers such as Sharaf DG and Eros shortly. A single unit costs AED 999 while a pack of three will retail for AED 1999.