Netgear expands its Orbi family with its first quad-band mesh Wi-Fi 6E system: The RBKE960

The new router operates a second network using the upper channels in the 5GHz frequency band for dedicated data back haul.
  • Wes Davis (PC World (US online))
  • 12 October, 2021 23:30

Netgear has announced its first quad-band WiFi 6E router in the form of the Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (kit model number RBKE960). Traditionally, the highest-performing Wi-Fi routers have been tri-band models that operate wireless networks using spectrum in the unlicensed 2.4GHz frequency band, lower channels in the unlicesned 5GHz band, and a second group of higher channels in the 5GHz radio spectrum to provide wireless data backhaul. When the Wi-Fi 6E standard came to market, tri-band routers utilized bandwidth in the 2.4GHz spectrum, the lower channels in the 5GHz spectrum, and newly available bandwidth the 6GHz frequency bands.

This new Orbi also taps that virgin spectrum in the 6GHz radio spectrum, but it returns to to making use of those higher 5GHz channels to form a fourth mesh network that’s dedicated to wireless backhaul. Why use 5GHz spectrum for this instead of the newly available 6GHz spectrum? In a briefing, Netgear told me it was about range. Higher-frequency signals deliver less range, because they can’t penetrate physical obstacles such as walls and doors as easily as the longer waves that 2.4- and 5GHz radios produce.

This latest iteration of the Orbi mesh system is being pitched primarily as a response to the increased upstream throughput needs of today’s households. Since the beginning of the pandemic, remote work, digital classrooms, and even socialization via video call have all put much more of a burden on household upload speeds. That said, having a router with a high upload speed isn’t very useful if your internet service provider can’t deliver a high-enough upload speed to take advantage of it.

orbi wifi 6e quad band backhaul Netgear

A second 5GHz network dedicated to data backhaul should make the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E mesh network extremely fast.

If your ISP can deliver fast uplonk speeds, Netgear’s Orbi RBKE960 should be able to take advntage of it, with a 10Gbps WAN port, a 2.5Gbps LAN, port, and a three-port gigabit switch in the primary gateway. Each of the satellite nodes has the same port layout—minus the 10Gbps WAN. That’s a nice step up from Netgear’s previous WiFi 6 router; that 2.5 Gbps LAN port on each satellite means you can run a very fast wired backhaul.

All this speed won’t come cheap, of course. Netgear is pricing the router with two satellite nodes at $1,500. Netgear says that should be adquate to blanket up to a 9,000 square feet home with high-speed Wi-Fi. Should you need even more coverage, each additional satellite node will cost $599. The system will be available for pre-order later this month.