Pa­trick Lo, Net­gear

Pa­trick Lo, Chair­man and CEO, Net­gear.

HWM (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - By Kenny Yeo Pho­tog­ra­phy An­gela Guo

Will mesh net­work­ing sys­tems make tra­di­tional non-mesh routers ob­so­lete?

Even­tu­ally, mesh net­work­ing sys­tems are go­ing to take over and we are tak­ing two tracks to get there. One track is what we call “or­di­nary peo­ple mesh”. That means there are not many but­tons to turn, you use the app to set it up, and then you don’t worry about it. That’s pretty much what the mar­ket is to­day. These sys­tems are very easy to use, very easy to un­der­stand, and ev­ery­thing is in lay­man’s terms. But there is an­other track that starts with a router with a lot of but­tons to turn and a lot of fea­tures and per­for­mance. How­ever, we have the mesh ex­ten­ders and you can use these to form a mesh net­work. One track is sim­pler and cheaper, the other is more so­phis­ti­cated and more ex­pen­sive, but it is also more pow­er­ful. But even­tu­ally, it all leads back to mesh net­work­ing sys­tems. We be­lieve that in three years, all routers will have some form of mesh ca­pa­bil­ity.

How can mesh net­work­ing sys­tems still im­prove?

There is still a lot of im­prove­ment we could make. I think the big­gest im­prove­ment that we can make is to im­ple­ment 802.11ax. To­day, the best we can do is MU-MIMO which al­lows the router to com­mu­ni­cate with up to three de­vices si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Once you im­ple­ment 802.11ax, you can talk to 64 de­vices si­mul­ta­ne­ously, so that’s one big im­prove­ment. The se­cond im­prove­ment that we can make is with re­gard to roam­ing - how de­vices get handed off to nodes in the mesh net­work. Smooth roam­ing where de­vices are handed off smoothly re­quires a lot of com­plex al­go­rithms and this is an area that can be im­proved upon. Fi­nally, qual­ity of ser­vice can also be rened be­cause the way QoS works right now is pretty crude and the de­vice that re­quires the most band­width doesn’t al­ways get it.

Why are IoT de­vices so in­se­cure and how can users pro­tect them­selves?

A lot of IoT de­vices are mostly de­vel­oped by com­pa­nies with lit­tle or no net­work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. They have no con­cept of net­work­ing and se­cu­rity and the code is ter­ri­ble, which makes their de­vices ex­tremely easy to ex­ploit. The prob­lem is that net­work­ing com­pa­nies like us can­not be ex­pected to work on IoT de­vices be­cause we don’t have the band­width, which is why is the onus is on the com­pa­nies them­selves to make their own IoT de­vices. But most of these guys have no clue about rmware and se­cu­rity. The only way to only se­cure the IoT net­work in the house is to make sure the router is se­cure. As long as IoT de­vices still go through the router, then you still have some form of con­trol to help you pre­vent hack­ers from ex­ploit­ing your IoT de­vices.

In light of this, how can users en­sure their routers are se­cure?

To­day, users can en­sure their routers are as se­cure as they can be as long as they have been vig­i­lant in do­ing rmware up­dates and use strong router pass­words. We strongly ad­vise all users to up­date their router’s rmware to their lat­est ver­sion be­cause there are hack­ers at work ev­ery day. At Net­gear, we mon­i­tor hacker ac­tiv­ity ev­ery day and we no­tify users through our app and via email to let them know when­ever there is a new rmware avail­able for their routers.

What ad­vice will you give to read­ers that are look­ing to pur­chase a new router right now?

Clearly, ei­ther you buy a mesh net­work­ing sys­tem or a Net­gear router. Jokes aside, if you buy a mesh net­work­ing sys­tem then at least you are buy­ing the most mod­ern sys­tem. If you say right now you can’t af­ford a mesh net­work­ing sys­tem be­cause they are ex­pen­sive, then buy a router that is mesh com­pat­i­ble, be­cause by the time you are ready to build a mesh net­work you can do it with our mesh ex­ten­der. Other­wise, you would be stuck with a router that is ob­so­lete and has to be throw away.

“Once you im­ple­ment 802.11ax, you can talk to 64 de­vices si­mul­ta­ne­ously so that’s one big im­prove­ment.”

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