Netgear has been slowly building up its Wi-Fi 6 business portfolio over the last couple of years. Today, the company is launching its flagship SMB access point in its Insight-managed series – the WAX630. The consumer Wi-Fi market segment has received extra focus over the last year or so with the onset of the pandemic-induced work-from-home (WFH) trend. As businesses move towards reopening in many parts of the world, there is bound to be an investment in upgrading the networking infrastructure of many SMB / microbusinesses to gear up for the increased workloads. Netgear is hoping to ride this upgrade wave to increase the market share of its Insight-based networking equipment in the SMB market.
In 2020, Netgear released the Orbi SXK80 and the WAX610 AP to introduce Wi-Fi 6 into their SMB portfolio. The company has been far more busy this year, with the launch of the WAX214 AX1800 and WAX218 AX3600 APs under the Essentials brand, the Orbi SXK30 AX1800 mini and the WAX620 AX3600 Insight-managed AP back in March. Today’s WAX630 launch rounds off its launches for the first half of 2021.
The WAX630 is the new flagship, and builds upon the 802.3at as well as 2.5GBASE-T support of the WAX610 and WAX620. A second wired LAN port (GbE) is included. It supports up to 600 active clients with 100 concurrent devices. The coverage area is also more, coming it at 3500 sq. ft. compared to 2500 for the WAX610 and 3000 for the WAX620. This tri-band solution (2x 5GHz + 1x 2.4 GHz 4×4) comes under the AX6000 class (1200 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band and 2 x 2400 Mbps in the 5GHz one), pointing to the use of a Qualcomm chipset. The lack of full 160 MHz support is not a big deal in this market segment, at least not until Wi-Fi 6E becomes more widespread.
Almost all SMB and enterprise Wi-Fi solutions are enabled with cloud-management. This greatly simplifies management on-the-go by IT administrators. However, this carries a premium for the additional firmware features and cloud servers maintenance from the vendor’s perspective. Netgear’s business lineup also includes an ‘Essentials’ product line that does away with the app and cloud-based management for a lower price point.
On the Orbi Pro front, one of the challenges for market acceptance has been the pricing due to its multi-device nature. The SXK80 was introduced last year at $770 for a router and a satellite. Last month, the SXK30 Orbi Pro Wi-Fi 6 Mini was introduced at $300 for a pair. To meet this price point, the SXK30 does away with the second 5GHz band and the 2.5GBASE-T port. The coverage area and capacity metrics are also a notch lower than the SXK80.
In SMB Wi-Fi, the focus is not on peak throughput – rather, security and reliability are primary concerns. Scalability and ease of management come in a close second. With their current portfolio of products and suggested pricing structure, Netgear is carving a niche for itself in this market segment. While not going head-to-head against the Cisco Merakis and Arubas, it does need to compete against other vendors such as Ubiquiti Networks, Linksys Business, EnGenius, and the like. However, none of these vendors seem to have a product in the market currently to go head-to-head against the WAX630’s specifications. It will be interesting to track how the market evolves over the coming months. The WAX630 is priced at $330 and available for purchase today.