The Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System AXE11000 from Netgear is the world’s first quad-band WiFi 6E router (RBKE960). Hot-rod routers have traditionally been tri-band, which means they feature an extra WiFi 5 band to cover higher channels and provide faster speed for 160 MHz-capable devices.
Every WiFi 6E router, on the other hand, broadcasts on the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz frequency bands, making them all tri-band. Unfortunately, this means you’ll be giving up your second, higher-throughput 5 GHz band in favor of a spectrum that just a few devices now use. This isn’t particularly important in terms of practicality, but it’s worth noting.
The addition of a fourth band, which will not be used directly by users but will instead serve as a specialized wireless backhaul for the system, is where this new Orbi mesh system departs from the norm.
Backhaul is a term used in networking to describe an exclusive data link that serves as a back channel for communication between nodes in a mesh system, conserving throughput for the band that your devices are using.
Why 5 GHz instead of 6 GHz for backhaul? While the 6 GHz spectrum is now free of congestion, allowing for better practical throughput, it simply cannot be used to transmit as far as devices on the 5 GHz frequency, according to Netgear.
This updated version of the Orbi mesh technology is being marketed as a solution to today’s families’ higher upstream throughput requirements. Remote employment, digital classrooms, and even socialising through video call have all placed a greater demand on upload speeds than ever before since the outbreak began.
With a 10Gbps WAN port, a 2.5 Gbps LAN port, and three gigabit ethernet ports on the primary gateway and a similar port layout—minus the 10 Gbps WAN port—on each satellite, Netgear’s Orbi appears to be highly future-proofed.
The earlier WiFi 6 version, the RBK853, had a 2.5 Gbps WAN and four gigabit LAN ports on the gateway router but only four gigabit ports on each satellite unit. You can run a very fast cable backhaul over each satellite’s 2.5 Gbps LAN connector, but doing so will not free up the fourth wireless band for usage by your network devices, since Netgear reserves it in case you want to add additional satellite nodes wirelessly to create a hybrid network.
Netgear claims that their Orbi system is also geared toward a good IoT experience, with a separate, WPA2-only IoT network that is not exposed to your home or guest networks for better security and more efficient bandwidth use, as well as claims to have solved issues with finicky IoT devices not rejoining the network after power outages or router upgrades––a pain smart home device enthusiasts know all too well. You’ll be able to set up a guest network, a combined 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz network for the majority of your devices, and a 6 GHz network for your fastest devices in addition to a dedicated IoT network.
Netgear Armor, Netgear’s Bitdefender-powered network security suite, as well as Smart Parent Controls, which appear to be a network-level equivalent of the iOS Screen Time feature, will be used in the Orbi system.
This new Orbi will also use the revised WPA 3 protocol, which adds new handshaking protocols and claims to compensate for poor WiFi passwords by prohibiting devices on the network from exchanging the password during handshakes, among other significant security upgrades.
Finally, Netgear is producing an Orbi Black Edition mesh system, which is a limited edition black version of the mesh system. The routers in this version can only be purchased from Netgear’s website.
The Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E system will be available in three different configurations: a single unit, a gateway plus one satellite, and a gateway plus two satellites, with coverage ratings of 3,000, 6,000, and 9,000 square feet, respectively.
They’re on pre-order now, with shipments expected later this month, and cost $1499.99 MSRP for a 3-pack and $599 for each extra satellite. A 2-pack configuration has yet to be priced or made available by Netgear.