The manufacturer TP-Link has presented a revolutionary router at CES 2022, the new model is the TP-Link Archer AXE200 Omni, a top-of-the-range router that incorporates WiFi 6E connectivity to provide the best possible performance, several Ethernet ports with speeds of 10G, 2.5G Multigigabit for WAN/LAN and also Gigabit Ethernet ports for LAN. The most remarkable thing about this new model is that it has a motor in the WiFi antennas , that is, it has rotating mechanical antennas , so they can adapt their orientation depending on the user’s location. Are these mechanical antennas useful for something or is it just marketing to sell these devices that promise better coverage?
Antennas with a motor to turn them?
The main feature of this new router is the incorporation of four external antennas that are mechanical rotating. This is a novelty and a total disruption, because there is no home WiFi router that has this functionality. This serves, in theory, to adapt the orientation of the antennas in relation to the user’s location, to ensure optimal coverage at all times, and to achieve ultra-fast speeds. According to TP-Link, this automatic adjustment of the antennas eliminates the need to adjust them manually.
Omnidirectional antennas already exist
All home routers have omnidirectional antennas , either internal antennas (which are inside the router itself, and placed in different positions) or external antennas (which we place). This means that the antennas built into the routers are capable of providing 360º coverage in the horizontal plane. If we place the antennas vertically, the coverage they emit horizontally is in all directions, however, depending on the gain of the antenna, the vertical angle will be greater or less. The higher the antenna gain, the smaller the vertical angle, and the lower the antenna gain, the larger the vertical angle. Generally, home routers have antennas with a gain of approximately 4dBi, so in the horizontal plane we will have 360º and in the vertical plane we will have approximately 30º-40º.
If we have several floors in our house, we will have noticed that the coverage also reaches the top floor, and sometimes, it arrives with very good speed. This is due to the fact that the WiFi signal bounces around the different obstacles until it reaches where the wireless client is, in addition, current routers have several technologies to optimize coverage in remote places where there are many signal bounces.
And also the MIMO and Beamforming
From the WiFi 4 standard we have several technologies that have been evolving and improving over the years, these technologies are:
- MIMO : routers from WiFi 4 have several WiFi antennas for reception and emission, this means that we can send WiFi signal from several antennas simultaneously, but with a signal offset so that they do not interfere with each other. This allows that, if a WiFi antenna does not provide adequate coverage, with the help of another antenna (or several) that may be in another position, we will be able to achieve good speed.
- Beamforming : This technology, which was also included from the WiFi 4 standard, allows you to “study” signal bounces and where the user is located, with the aim of “focusing” the signal wherever it is. In places close to the router we will not notice any improvement, but at medium-far distances we will notice a fairly significant improvement compared to a WiFi router that does not have this function, or that has it disabled.
Any current router has these functions, and even more advanced, since we have implicit and explicit Beamforming, and MU-MIMO to transfer and receive data from several clients simultaneously.
Placement of the antennas
The placement of the antennas is something very important for a WiFi router, since, depending on their placement, we can have more or less coverage. As we said before, there are two types of routers: those with internal antennas and those with external antennas.
The routers that have internal antennas cannot move them , logically, but internally they are located in different places of the router and in different positions, to try to radiate in all directions as if it were a sphere of WiFi coverage, and that we are within this sphere. If you have a WiFi router with internal antennas, you will have noticed that the horizontal and vertical coverage (if we have several floors) is very good. It is because it has omnidirectional antennas and they are placed in different positions.
Routers that have external antennas can be moved , and the logical thing would be to place some of them vertically, and others placed at about 45º from the horizontal plane, with the aim of providing good vertical coverage, similar to what is done in the antennas internal to a Wi-Fi router. In extreme cases where we have several plants, we can place them at an angle of about 30º with respect to the horizontal plane, so that the coverage reaches something more direct, but in principle it is not necessary: due to signal bounces, due to MIMO and due to Beamforming .
A motor in the antennas does not contribute anything
This new TP-Link router has a total of four external antennas that move with a small motor, they are rotating mechanical antennas, so they will rotate depending on where the clients are located. This makes us ask ourselves several questions, the first of which is whether the antennas are omnidirectional, because if they are omnidirectional it is not necessary for them to rotate, because the coverage in the horizontal plane is already 360º.
The second question we ask ourselves is, from the photos you can see that the antennas move in the vertical plane, it could be interesting in certain cases where we have several plants at home, but if we have several WiFi clients connected in different places (which is the most normal), what will the router do? Because if it moves it could benefit some to harm others, so we stay the same.
The most common thing with a WiFi router with external antennas is to place them in different ways, and never move them, because it is simply not necessary to be moving them continuously, what we gain in coverage in certain scenarios we lose in others.
Finally, there is the question of the maintenance of these motors in the antennas. If the antennas are mechanical, they will have a motor and may need some maintenance, and could even make too much noise when moving, especially if we have the router in the living room or in a room.
TP-Link has not indicated any price for this router, nor when it will be available. By having high-end hardware, and also the function of motorizing the antennas, we believe that it is a piece of equipment that will not fall below approximately 500 euros, a really high price, and that it will have an additional extra cost for the simple fact of having the antennas with engine.