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16 January 2020

Arris adds mesh WiFi 6 technology to its two-router platform

Arris raised a few eyebrows back in July when it accused rival triband WiFi 6 router manufacturers of cutting corners by placing older WiFi 5 (802.11ac) or WiFi 4 (802.11n) technology on some of the bands. Not wasting any time, the CommScope-owned company has already released an evolution of its mesh WiFi 6 technology – the SURFboard mAX AX6600 router.

But with competing products arriving hard and fast, Arris took a less provocative approach this time around. It has delivered a two-router system, each delivering up to 6.6Gbps speeds. What Arris appears to be doing is attempting to disrupt the high end multi-access point (AP) market, by offering two-router mesh systems which it claims are sufficient for multiple 4K video or virtual reality use cases over areas of up to 6,000 square feet.

Available as a standalone router or as part of a whole home mesh system, the AX6600 will hit retail in Q2, with prices yet to be determined. At present, there are three separate AX systems – the AX11000, AX7800 and the newer AX6600. The latter has been built as a complementary router to the AX11000 Pro Mesh and the slightly cheaper AX78000 Plus Mesh products.

One of the main differentiators of the SURFboard mAX AX6600 to its sister products is support for Alexa voice control for WiFi access features from Alexa-compatible devices. For example, the Alexa WiFi Access feature can be used for requests like ‘Alexa, pause the WiFi for 30 minutes’ or ‘Alexa, turn of the WiFi for Philip for 30 minutes’.

Additional specs for the new device include 16 spatial streams (eight per unit) – ideal for simultaneous streams – running a quad-core ARM-A7 Cortex processor for multi-stream operation.

At the time of launch six months ago, Arris claimed that the SURFboard mAX Gigabit WiFi Pro and Plus systems were the only devices on the market using WiFi 6 on each of three separate bands (two 5 GHz bands along with 2.4 GHz), making use of 4×4 antennas and mesh technology. However, now triband WiFi 6 routers from the likes of Netgear, Linksys and more have appeared on the market too.

A main selling point is that, in the case of a mesh system with multiple routers within a large premises, the second 5 GHz band acts as a dedicated communications line between the two routers to speed up the entire system by as much as 180% over dual-band configurations. An advantage of having a third band, with 4×4 WiFi 6, is that it provides a dedicated backhaul to ensure faster speeds around the home.

As standalone routers, each of the AX11000, AX7800 and AX6600 devices offers up to 3,000 square foot of coverage, while a two-unit system can blanket gigabit WiFi throughout homes up to 5,500 square foot.