Cisco Plumbs Home Wireless Market With New Routers

By D.H. Kass

April 3, 2010

Cisco Systems Inc. said it will begin selling a new line of home-market wireless routers that the networking giant is touting for its modest design, ease of use and potential for widespread appeal.

The vendor is offering its fresh brand of consumer routers, called the Valet, in two versions at different functionality and price points.

“Valet is home wireless made easy,” said Jonathan Kaplan, senior vice president and general manager, Cisco Consumer Products.

Cisco said that in addition to a simple design the Valet routers are notable for a quick, uncomplicated set up. Officials said that a desktop can be configured for the Valet routers in three steps using the Cisco Connect software.

In designing the Valet routers, Cisco said it tapped the expertise of Pure Digital, a maker of the consumer-oriented Flip Video digital camcorders that the networking giant acquired a year ago.

“With complementary backgrounds and expertise, our Cisco and Flip teams have combined forces to change the rules for home wireless with a product line that empowers consumers to easily set up, enjoy and manage all of their wireless devices anywhere in their homes,” Kaplan said.

Cisco also added to its roster of home-focused wireless routers with four new units under the Linksys E-Series banner.

Cisco differentiated the Valet and Linksys offerings in part based on technical complexity, positioning the E-series as suitably powerful for its core audience of technology-minded users, while still retaining the simplicity that consumers require.

The basic Valet model is aimed at the small- to medium sized home market containing primarily wireless devices, and is priced at $99.99. The Valet Plus unit is aimed at medium- to large-sized homes containing a mix of wireless and wired devices, and is priced at $149.99.

The Valet Connector, priced at $79.99, upgrades older computers to wireless and is offered as a complementary device to the Valet routers.

Cisco said that the Valet routers are available now at Amazon.com, Staples and at the Cisco web site. Retailers Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and others ultimately will sell the units, Cisco said.

The introduction of the Valet routers marks a departure in Cisco’s strategy for the home wireless market as the vendor previously has sold consumer-oriented routers only under its Linksys brand.

New Linksys consumer routers

Cisco’s new Linksys E-series consists of four routers ranging in price from $79.99 to $179.99 and includes the Cisco Connect software. Officials said that the E-series allows users to customize and control their wireless network settings to match their preferences.

An entry level model, called the E1000 Wireless-N router, priced at $79.99, connects devices at transfer speeds up to 300 Mbps, uses Faster Ethernet ports, and is aimed at general wireless Internet use; the E2000 Advanced Wireless-N model, priced at $119.99, includes four Gigabit Ethernet ports, features dual band technology, and is aimed at connecting computers, gaming consoles, HDTVs and Blu-Ray players.

In addition, the E2100L Advanced Wireless-N router with Linux OS, also priced at $119.99, uses the Linux operating system for network customization, features four Fast Ethernet ports and built-in UPnP AV Media Server to stream media content to an Xbox 360, PS3 or other device. At the top of the line is the E3000 High Performance Wireless-N router, dual band, priced at $179.99, and containing all the high performance features of the other models.

A high-performance, Wireless-N USB adapter, priced at $69.99, also is available.

The E-series models are available at the same outlets as the Valet line and at the Cisco web site.

In unwrapping the Valet and Linksys E-series routers, Cisco officials pointed to increased consumer demand for wireless products, offering up statistics from researcher International Data Corp. that slightly more than 30 percent of U.S. homes are set up for wireless use, along with data from ABI Research on the heft of the market, specifically that some 264 million wireless-enabled products--including mobile phones, gaming systems and music players, shipped worldwide last year.