Cisco Linksys gear targets boom in home use of 802.11n wireless nets

Cisco Tuesday announced a slew of routers and switches designed to address the explosion of home networked devices, from smartphones to table computers to Internet-enabled TVs.

Cisco says the market for home wireless routers, especially 802.11n gear, is ripe for expansion. It cites a November IDC report that found only 39% of U.S. homes have wireless, and just 11% are using 802.11n devices. Adoption of 802.11n is expected to nearly double over the next five years, as home users buy and install Wi-Fi-based devices, including smartphones, tablet computers and Internet-enabled TVs, Cisco says.

IN PICTURES: Cisco revamps Linksys with 7 new products

The new E-Series routers include the $60 entry-level E1200 (replacing the E1000), the $80 E1500, the $100 E2500 (simultaneous dual-band) and the $160 E3200 (home entertainment-driven). On the high end, Cisco is more widely distributing the $180 E4200, which was

Cisco also announced three new switches – the $30 SE1500 offers five 10/100 ports, the $55 SE2500 offers five Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the $75 SE2800 offers eight additional Gigabit Ethernet ports. The switches provide QoS for traffic prioritization, auto-sensing ports and “sleep mode” power saving options (for the two higher-end switches).

Cisco’s new crop of routers still don’t include IPv6, but Cisco promises that a free firmware upgrade will be available no later than the fall. Cisco had promised that IPv6 would ship in April for the high-end E4200 that launched in January, and the company reiterated that promise to Network World last week.

As for the remaining routers, availability of the firmware upgrades will “trickle in,” said Scott Kabat, director of marketing for Cisco Consumer Products. The firmware upgrade will automatically install but requires the user to manually trigger it by opening the management software. Cisco has still not revealed if firmware upgrades that include IPv6 will be made available to any router introduced before 2011.

Like the E4200 router, the E3200 includes a USB port for attaching an external hard drive, creating a network-attached storage device that operates through the router. The E3200 also supports the virtual USB option, which would allow for USB-enabled printers to connect across the network. However, Cisco says that this may require a software/firmware update, planned for summer.

Each of the new routers also includes Cisco Connect software, which aims to make router installation much easier and support parental controls that include time-of-day access and domain blocking. It also allows the setup of separate guest network access for visitors.

Read more about lans & wans in Network World’s LANs & WANs section.