Networking

Faster, smarter, and even sexy routers are long overdue

A new router that can reach incredible speeds is on its way. Jack Wallen discusses what this product and other new routers mean in the evolution of this networking tech.

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Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic

TP-LINK announced in January 2016 that it is making the world's first 802.11ad router: the TP-LINK Talon AD7200. It uses a new 60GHz Wi-Fi standard that works alongside the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This is a line of sight router (short distances) that offers incredible speeds. By combining bands, the Talon can reach transfer speeds up to 7.2 Gbps.

But unlike a lot of the new routers coming to market, this baby isn't small; it doesn't blend in with your decor; and it doesn't learn from your networking habits. This big, six-antenna router is made for one thing: speed.

TP-LINK hasn't announced a price yet. The company indicated the router will be available in Q2 2016.

Why the spotlight's back on routers

TP-LINK's announcement serves to highlight the newfound attention being paid to routers. Until recently, the router has been the ugly ducking of networking tech. Thanks to a confluence of innovations and high end-user demand, the router is back in the limelight, and every company wants a piece of the pie.

This evolution of router technology makes sense. With the rise of the Internet of Things, smarter and smarter devices, ever-increasing demands for streaming content, and a need for constant connection to the cloud, users are sucking up data at insane rates and that aging, ubiquitous piece of hardware had to finally grow up.

What I find interesting about this evolution is how this slice of the technology pie had been the thing everyone tucked away for so long. Routers existed behind chairs, in hutches, on floors, in closets...anywhere but within sight. That was then, this is now; and in the now, technology has become a part of the new world landscape.

Households brag about their technology and display their tech in spots once reserved for family heirlooms. They sport smart thermostats; Amazon Echo sits front and center in the kitchen; and they are connected in ways that only seemed possible in the movies.

Why? Because technology has become sexy. And I'm not talking about the software — the iOS and the Android of things. Hardware design has finally caught up to the aesthetic presented by the software that drives the "things."

Even routers. Yes, routers. The most un-sexy piece of technology ever created.

This convergence of aesthetic, performance, and features has been long overdue. And with the upgrades and attention being given to the lowly router, the glue that connects your smart home and smart small business together might finally be up to par. And then some.

Routers will get smarter and sexier

As the smart router starts to gain more attention, I imagine it will have a slew of new features — each one helping to bring the "dumb" router into the realm of the "smart" gadget. Routers will soon learn from your networking habits and know when to dedicate the full pipe to your 4K television; or when to limit access to certain sites. Security will become smarter and update constantly. Firmware will never be out of date.

You are only as strong as your weakest link and, for the longest time, the router has been the weakest link in your network hardware. That is no longer the case. I venture that soon the router will become one of the most important links in that chain.

The new frontier of routers are pieces of technology you aren't so embarrassed to display. They are faster, sexier, smarter, and a necessary evil. With the likes of TP-LINK Talon, the Turris Omnia, and Google's OnHub, routers are on the fast track to becoming the next big thing. Considering how more and more people binge watch their favorite streaming content, the evolution of the router has been long overdue. Those tired, dingy white boxes need to be retired, as they simply cannot keep up with the growing network and security demands.

It's time for a good ol' out with the old, in with the new! Don't ya think?

Share your router wish list

What would you like to see in new router technology? Let us know in the comments.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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