Bart Bomers, VP Linksys EMEA and Amanulla Khan, Managing Director, Linksys, Middle East, Turkey & Africa discuss how the networking vendor is building and enhancing its reach into the growing wireless networking segment, especially in the consumer space.
It has been about three years since Belkin acquired Linksys. Shortly thereafter, Linksys also relaunched its SMB portfolio. The Brand in the past couple of years has consolidated its presence in the channel and retail, with an expanded portfolio of products. The networking brand has also had some significant technology launches in the recent past and perhaps the most significant among them would be its Mu-MIMO technology routers that promises to enhance the wireless connectivity experience for home users.
The manufacturer continues to address the consumer side of the Business as a strong focus. This will continue to be the manufacturer’s primary focus.
Bart Bomers, VP Linksys EMEA who was at the Linksys booth during GITEX Technology week says, “Traditionally, our focus has been stronger in the consumer space. When we acquired Linksys about three years ago, Linksys was focused primarily in the consumer space. We are continuing to invest in that space and expect to see continued growth in the segment. This will be a large part of our Business.”
In the consumer space, the vendor’s extensive portfolio of routers for instance addresses expectations of different user profiles. The manufacturer has also expanded its consumer range with Mu-MIO routers and range extenders.
Amanulla Khan, Managing Director, Linksys, Middle East, Turkey & Africa says, “We have our entry level E-series which are the wireless-n routers. Then we have the smart routers, the EA series, which supports smart WiFi. We also have the Max-Stream routers which supports MU-MIMO. We offer the widest range in MU-MIMO routers for consumers.”
Alongside, the Business products portfolio has also been sufficiently strengthened to address the best opportunities. The restart of Business in the SMB space was one of the key steps after Linksys was bought out.
Bart elaborates, “When we acquired Linksys, we also restarted the initiatives into the commercial space. In the last 2 years, we have introduced a full portfolio of products. Traditionally, adoption in the commercial or Business space has been a bit slower than in the consumer space but we understand this. The commercial Business has picked up and is going along quite well as is the consumer Business.”
The SMB Business for Linksys in the region has seen steady impressive growth, opines Amanulla.
He elaborates, “In the MEA, since we launched our SMB product portfolio, we doubled our business and in the last year, we have been able to see an increase by 65%. There is a huge demand and adoption of Linksys SMB products. Even in the current market scenario, we believe we will see a higher double digit growth. We are displacing a lot of competition. We are continuing to recruit SIs and value add resellers.”
Further, the manufacturer concedes that some of its consumer range products may be finding their way into small business environments as they look for affordable solutions. In fact the manufacturer has positioned its solutions for Businesses in the affordable range and has expanded what it offers for enabling wireless connectivity in Business environments.
Amanullah says, “While it is true that some of our consumer routers could be used in small offices, we have specially designed Business solutions and this includes two VPN routers. We also have access points in our Business portfolio which include ceiling or wall mount access points. We have also launched clustering solutions wherein we can support up to 16 access points at the same time. Clustering enables easy management of core AP functionality without the cost and complexity of cloud-based controllers or hardware wireless LAN controllers. This reduces the costs and complexity of managing multiple wireless access points. There seems to be a lot of demand for the wireless AC products in the Business space also.”
In Access points addressing Business users, the manufacturer launched the LAPAC2600 Business Pro series MU-MIMO Access point and reports that initial market feedback has been promising. The LAPAC 2600 is built with MU-MIMO capabilities that deliver next-generation Wi-Fi MU-MIMO technology for high-density performance and maximum data rates up to 2.53 Gbps.
The manufacturer continues to consolidate in its areas of core focus. At the same instance, the manufacturer for the moment doesn’t see surveillance as an area of core focus.
Amanulla says, “While we had relaunched our SMB focus with a full portfolio, since then surveillance has not been a core focus although we continue to offer our products. The focus has been on the wireless and then the switching solutions on the PoE front where people need affordable solutions.”
Resurgence of the WRT
One of the strong product families for Linksys in the router segment is the WRT series that was also reintroduced after the landmark buyout. This strategic decision has provided Linksys access to the demanding prosumer segment in the region.
Bart says, “When we acquired Linksys, we decided to bring back the WRT brand which has been quite popular earlier with the launch of WRT 1900AC Dual Bank Wi-Fi Router. We have launched a new router in our WRT lineup, the WRT3200ACM. It offers open-source firmware support for OpenWRT or DD-WRT, and no parental controls or other bloatware. It also comes with up to 512MB of DDR3 RAM, eSATA and USB like the last model, making it easier to load and run custom firmware. It is aimed at users who want to use custom firmware or own a purpose-built router. The router features the blue and black color scheme of the original WRT54G.”
He adds, “This could be targeting the prosumers- hardcore gamers and network professionals who are quite demanding about performance from their networks. We have also been noticing that the product has been quite popular with traditional consumer segment as well perhaps because people in general may have less clarity about what speeds suit their requirement and may be upgrading only on basis of owning the ‘best of the best’. “
Amanullah elaborates on the spectacular success of the new launches from the WRT series. He opines that the models are runaway success in their niches over competition.
He says, “Like its predecessors, the WRT 1900 AC and WRT 1900 ACS- the two versions of the WRT routers we launched, too in turn became among the fastest selling models in the region. At a gaming roadshow in Saudi Arabia for instance, we had lent our WRT 1900 AC routers where there were gaming routers form our competitors as well but we had bloggers lauding the high performance of the WRT routers. In the prosumer space, we are quite popular with the WRT and there is hardly any competition for these products. In the retail space, you can notice a good extent of space dedicated to these routers because of their popularity.”
The manufacturer has positioned Mu-MIO as a technology that is transformational in terms of the wireless connectivity experience in the home segment. MU-MIMO technology (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output technology) which is also known as Next-Gen AC or AC Wave 2—allows a Wi-Fi router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously. This decreases the time each device has to wait for a signal and dramatically speeds up the network.
Earlier in the year, Linksys unveiled MAX-STREAM AC5400 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router with MU-MIMO (EA9500) routers with Smart Wi-Fi Software applications, which the manufacturer claims is one of the most powerful tri-band routers on the market and delivers premium business-grade connectivity to the home. Alongside, it also unveiled the first MU-MIMO-enabled USB adapter the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC600 USB MU-MIMO Adapter (WUSB6100M) that upgrade Wi-Fi technology in smart devices.
The vendor claims that its Mu-MIMO models have been well received by the market, justifying the faith it has placed on the technology and its pioneering initiatives.
Amanullah says, “When everyone was talking about triple band routers, we believed that MU-MIMO would be the technology that will change the wireless experience for consumers. We were the first to launch it last year EA8500 – supporting upto three devices simultaneously. This became top selling. We have recently launched the EA 9500 which is triple band Mu-MIMO that can support upto 8 devices simultaneously. Within 30 days, according to GFK, it became the fastest selling router in the market. With EA 9500, we have also launched a Mu- MIMO range extender. That combination gives true seamless network connectivity. The extender also works with EA 8500 and EA 7500.
Along with the launch of the MAX-STREAM AC5400 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router, Linksys also unveiled the first range extender with next-generation AC Wave 2 technology – MU-MIMO the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC1900+ MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE7000).
Bart says, “Range extenders within the past two years have been the fastest growing in the network space. It is a sizeable market and about 35-40 % of the value market. These range extenders make a huge case with the fact that they ensure you are always connected to the best signal strength. We will look at launching new solutions that could take this to the next level.
While the company maintains a policy of making products available in all markets simultaneous with the global launch, Bart concedes that there could be exceptions to the rule in the case of products that may be sold only in specific markets.
He says, “As a policy, when we launch our products, we make them globally available. However, we do make choices in certain product categories which may have to do with technicalities. For instance, in the US retail market, we offer the DOCSIS modems. We don’t have those in the MEA.”
Overall, the networking manufacturer continues to forge its way ahead and deeper into the market with exceptional focus around its traditional strengths when it comes to product lines, which on their own seem to be offering a rapidly growing market opportunity in the region.