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Linksys brand joins the 802.11ac market with wireless router, bridge

By Keith Shaw

Cisco's Linksys brand of home wireless networking routers today joined other vendors in coming out with 802.11ac equipment, as well as enabling a cloud-based platform for configuration and control of its "Smart Wi-Fi Routers."

The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router with AC (model EA6500) is a dual-band wireless router - the 802.11ac wireless will be on the 5-GHz band, while the 2.4-GHz band remains 802.11n. The router will be backwards compatible with 802.11n adapters, as well as 802.11b/g on the 2.4-GHz band. The unit will include two USB ports (for shared storage and printers), and will have four Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired clients. Cisco says the router will be available in early August at major retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, New Egg, Target and Walmart.

On the adapter side, Cisco announced the Linksys Universal Media Connector with AC (model WUMC710), a wireless bridge that includes 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports that can connect wirelessly to the 802.11ac router. The unit is aimed to provide a wired-to-wireless bridge for devices like TVs, game consoles, etc., but could also be used to provide Internet connectivity for notebooks and desktops. The UMC will be available in September, Cisco says. Pricing on both units was not made available.

The new router joins others in the 802.11ac market - Netgear's R6300 and R6200 Wi-Fi Routers, as well as Buffalo Technology's AC1300/N900 (WZR-D1800H) have hit the market recently. The 802.11ac technology promises "up to 1300Mbps" of wireless throughput (with about 433Mbps of "real" throughput expected, depending on client adapter used and other environmental factors).

Cisco also announced the availability of Cisco Connect Cloud, a software platform for the EA6500 and its other Smart Wi-Fi Routers, which were announced earlier in the year (includes models EA2700, EA3500 and EA4500). According to Cisco, the cloud platform "is designed to handle all the tiresome and complicated technical aspects of home network set-up and connecting devices to the network."

The platform includes the availability of its Cisco Connect Cloud mobile app, which provides access to the Cisco Connect Cloud site via smartphone or tablet. With the app, users can configure or maintain their Smart Wi-Fi Router via the mobile device or across the cloud. Previous versions of the Cisco Connect mobile app required that users be on the same local network.

In addition to its own app, Cisco announced six third-party apps (see slideshow) that work with the Cisco Connect Cloud and the Smart Wi-Fi routers. Cisco also said it would open its Linksys Developer Community to help app developers work with Cisco on creating additional apps for the Cisco Connect Cloud platform.

Cisco's new routers with cloud capability join at least one other vendor in the home networking space with cloud-based features. Last week, D-Link announced that two of its Cloud Routers - the Cloud Router 1200 (model DIR-636L, $59.99) and Cloud Router 2000 (DIR-826L, $99.99) were shipping.

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