Arris first to market with tri-band WiFi 6 mesh, calls out lazy rivals

Arris timed its WiFi 6 product unveiling to perfection, sliding out a release just as guidelines for the forthcoming wireless technology were published this week (see separate story in this issue). The US network equipment heavyweight is claiming the first true tri-band WiFi 6 mesh system, putting Arris in poll position to profit from the proliferation of WiFi 6, although competition has been arriving hard and fast.

Acquired by CommScope earlier this year, we feared Arris might disappear into the shadows. Alas, the brand powers on and so does the trailblazing technology, launching the SURFboard mAX Gigabit WiFi Pro and Plus systems, claiming to be the only devices on the market using WiFi 6 on each of three separate bands (two 5 GHz bands along with 2.4 GHz) with 4×4 antennas and mesh technology. Arris told Faultline Online Reporter it was company policy not to reveal the chipset supplier, so our best guess would be Intel, although it could potentially surprise us by using Quantenna chipsets.

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 impressive increase. It also claims speeds of up to 11 Gbps for the mAX Pro and 7.8 Gbps for the mAX Plus.

In the race to deliver tri-band WiFi 6 routers to the market, Arris claims competing manufacturers (naming no names) cut corners and put older WiFi 5 or 802.11n technology on some of the bands, so their devices don’t deliver the full advantages or speeds that the technologies promise.

Arris’ SURFboard mAX Gigabit WiFi Pro and Plus products will hit retail later this month priced at $649.99 and $549.99 respectively, available as a system or standalone router. The standalone router offers up to 3,000 square foot of coverage, while the full system blankets gigabit WiFi throughout homes up to 6,000 square foot.

On the silicon front, competition has been heating up. Quantenna was one of the first to market for an 8×8 draft WiFi 6 product, then in February 2017, Qualcomm announced a new 8×8 product based on the draft WiFi 6 standard, followed by Broadcom in August 2017 with a 4×4 WiFi connectivity system based on the draft WiFi 6 standard. Then in January 2018, enter chipzilla Intel with new chipsets based on the draft WiFi 6 standard for mainstream 2×2 and 4×4 home routers and gateways.

Quantenna responded most recently with the new Spartan 5XL chipset as part of its WiFi 6 portfolio launched in May this year, based on the vendor’s 5×5 MIMO architecture, providing 7-stream technology for extenders, repeaters and mesh nodes. The dual-band dual-concurrent Spartan 5XL comes equipped with EasyMesh support, Quantenna’s ViSiON cloud-based monitoring and Qdock support of third-party applications, plus the vendor’s QT8853 power management IC for lower power consumption and reduced BOM.

Evan Groat, VP of the Consumer Products Group at Arris said, “We did our research and took the time to get them right, maximizing the full potential of WiFi 6, tri-band, and mesh. The result is the world’s first true tri-band WiFi 6 mesh systems. They offer performance that no other system can match.”

Some brazen claims and jibes at rivals have been made by Arris this week – underscoring the increasingly fierce WiFi market which has certainly whet our appetite for IBC in two months’ time.