On hearing the term “Wi-Fi router” our brain pops up an image of blue and black box comprising a flashing light and antennae sticking out of it. To be more specific, we think of one Wi-Fi router specifically, the iconic and one of the most widely- sold, Linksys WRT 54G.
The popularity of the WRT 54G series was because of its reasonable price and also hackable characteristics. The well-documented chipsets which were used in the device were Broadcom and then Atheros. The chipsets enabled the Open Source community to make some other firmware releases like Tomato, DD-WRT and OpenWRT, all three running on the Linux platform.
Although these alternative firmwares were never endorsed by Linksys officially and they also never provide any support if you used them, still the Wi-Fi power users installed them because of the added functionality offered out of the box, mostly related to security and signal/performance diagnostics.
The industry has changed a lot post twelve years of the release of the original WRT 54G, which indulges heavy commoditization of the Wi-Fi and home networking product ecosystem.
Linksys now have its counterparts now in the market like NETGEAR, D-LINK, ASUS and numerous other vendors, giving Linksys a tough time. Many of the service providers and telcos have also included their own integrated OEM Wi-Fi routers/residental gateways as part of basic service offerings.
Linksys was first kind of ignored by its parent company Cisco in the past few years, releasing extremely commoditized and less-reliable products which were far less open as well, that made the installation and development of alternative firmware products like DD-WRT tougher.
Linksys was reborn before January 2013 when it was sold to PC accessories company Belkin. At Winter CES this week, the company is going to announce the WRT 1900AC, a powerful dual-band 802.11AC router that not only visually evokes the original WRT 54G but also officially demonstrates a commitment to Open Source and extensibility unlike when it was a Cisco subsidiary.
The WRT 1900AC integrates classic look with a dual-core, 1.2Ghz Intel Atom processor (yes, x86, not ARM) with 256MB of RAM, 4 removable antennas for increased range, gigabit WAN, 3 MIMO spatial streams, and USB 3.0 and eSATA for external storage, 4 gigabit ethernet ports as well.
The 128MB of flash as well as support for open firmware will be the highlights of the release.
It is available fot $299 retail when the device ships this spring, making it more attractive for the most hardcore Wi-Fi geeks with very specific requirements and complex home networks.