Category: Network Connectivity Devices

One of AVM’s FritzBoxes is a sign of what a modem router would be about

Article

AVM FritzBox 5530 Fiber FTTP fibre-optic router product image courtesy of AVM

AVM shows an example of what the home network router will be about with the FritzBox 5530 Fiber

Neue FritzBox: AVM bringt neuen Router in den Handel (New FritzBox: AVM brings new router to market) | Inside Digital (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

FritzBox 5530 Fiber (Product Page – English / Deutsch)

My Comments

AVM is offering to the German market a Wi-Fi router that is a sign of things to come for home-network routers.

This unit, known as the Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber has a built-in optical-network modem that works with current-specification fibre-to-the-premises networks. It doesn’t matter whether the network implements active or passive topology, which would cater for situations where the infrastructure provider or ISP upgrades the service to active technology for increased capacity.

The fibre-optic cable for the network would have to be equipped with SFP fibre-optic plugs which allow the user to plug it in to the FTTP service. Depending on the FTTP installation, this may be a captive fibre-optic flylead that you plug in to the modem or fibre-optic cable you plug in to the equipment and a wall socket.

Here, this kind of router would come in handy where fibre-to-the-premises services are able to be delivered on a “bring-your-own-equipment” basis. Here, this may be a self-install setup for those premises which have extant FTTP infrastructure for the network that provides the desired service. Or it could be for professionally-installed “new-infrastructure” services where the customer supplies their own equipment or the equipment is supplied under separate delivery.

It would also appeal to ISPs who want to provide a router with integrated optical-network-terminal functionality as their customer-premises equipment.

Connections on AVM FritzBox FF30 Fiber router image courtesy of AVM

On the left is the SFP fibre-optic connection for your FTTP fibre-optic Internet service while the Ethernet socket in the middle outlined in white is the 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet socket.

On the LAN side, there are three Ethernet connections with one being a 2.5 Gigabit connection for “multiple-Gigabit” Ethernet networks along with two Gigabit Ethernet connections. The Wi-Fi segment is a two-stream Wi-Fi 6 setup which allows for high-throughput wireless networking. Of course, these connections work at the stated speed if equipment matching these specifications is connected to them.

The Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber has VoIP adaptor functionality including a DECT base station for six handsets along with an analogue-telephony-adaptor for one regular telephony device, including a fax machine. This setup is SIP compliant for setup with most Fixed-Line IP services that are the way to provide landline telephony in the era of fibre-to-the-premises broadband.

It runs the AVM FritzOS operating system and like other Fritzbox devices, implements automatic software updating. There is support for the AVM FritzMesh arrangement that allows the use of AVM’s network-infrastructure hardware to become part of a wired and/or wireless mesh setup to assure proper network coverage across your home.

At the moment, the Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber sells to the German market for a recommended-retail price of EUR€169. But the fact that it provides a fibre-optic WAN and at least one multi-gigabit Ethernet LAN connection to answer the trend of high-throughput Internet and home-network connectivity.

This could become in the near future the path to go for home-network routers as fibre-to-the-premises Gigabit broadband Internet takes hold. It also underscores what is going on with the design of consumer IT hardware within Europe.

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Deutsche Telekom fields their first Wi-Fi 6 DSL modem router

Article (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

Deutsche Telekom Speedport Pro Plus DSL modem router press picture courtesy of Deutsche Telekom GmBH

Deutsche Telekom Speedport Pro Plus – a DSL modem router that uses Wi-Fi 6

Telekom Speedport Pro Plus: Erster DSL-Router mit Wi-Fi 6 (Telekom Speedport Pro Plus First DSL router with Wi-Fi 6) | Computer Bild

From the horse’s mouth

Deutsche Telekom

Speedport Pro Plus: the premium router for Wi-Fi 6 networks (Press Release)

My Comments

Interest still exists in DSL-based WAN technology especially in VDSL-based fibre-copper setups like fibre-to-the-basement or fibre-to-the-cabinet / fibre-to-the-node. Here this is to utilise existing telephone cabling between the fibre-copper point and the customer’s premises while it is worth it to keep this cable in use.

But Deutsche Telekom have offered to their German market the SpeedProt Pro Plus DSL modem router which is the first of its kind for that market to have Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) for the Wi-Fi segment. For network security, this router works to the WPA3 security standards for Wi-Fi networks, and it can support meshed operation with Deutsche Telekom’s Speedport equipment. It is answering a reality that an increasing number of Wi-Fi client devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops are being equipped with Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking.

The use of Wi-Fi 6 network technology is being seen as very important within Europe where most people who live in the cities live in apartments. It also will underscore for countries like Australia where apartment dwelling within urban areas is gaining acceptance.

This device has 12 antennas compared to the AVM Fritz!Box 7590 having eight antennas. This allows for higher local-network-level throughput and increasingly-robust operation. There is also for Gigabit Ethernet connections for the local network and a Gigabit Ethernet connection as an alternative Internet connection. That is important for fibre-to-the-premises connections or fibre-copper setups implementing cable-TV or Ethernet technology and dependent on an external modem.

As is the trend nowadays with European-made home-network routers, the Telekom Speedport Pro Plus has a VoIP endpoint including a fully-featured DECT cordless-telephone base station. This device supports smart-home functionality for smart-home peripherals that work according to Wi-Fi, Zigbee or the European favourite technology that is DECT-ULE. That is part of their Magenta SmartHome platform that they are offering within Germany.

This is an example of Wi-Fi 6 coming to a carrier-supplied modem router and proving its case with Internet subscribers who stick with the equipment offering that their telco or ISP provide. Who knows when your local telco or ISP will offer their service with Wi-Fi 6 equipment in tow?

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AT&T moves towards a Mi-Fi with full 5G and Wi-Fi 6 for the American market

Article AT&T Netgear Nighthawk 5G Pro MiFi router press picture courtesy of AT&T

AT&T adds new a Netgear 5G hotspot that you will actually be able to buy | CNet

From the horse’s mouth

AT&T

NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G Hotspot Pro Arrives at AT&T Sept. 18 (Press Release)

5G Product Page (announcing pending arrival of this Mi-Fi hotspot)

NETGEAR

NIGHTHAWK® M5 MOBILE ROUTER (MR5200) – Product Page

My Comments

Telstra has become the first telco in the world to offer a “Mi-Fi” mobile-broadband router that supports both 5G mobile broadband across all bands including mmWave on the Internet side and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity on the LAN side. This was offered when they initially launched their 5G mobile broadband service and this kind of coverage was important for Australian use where 5G services are likely to be deployed in sparsely-populated regional and rural areas.

AT&T now is offering to the general American public a Mi-Fi device that works on the full 5G waveband for its Internet connection side, and Wi-Fi 6 for its local network side. Here, that covers the lower frequencies of the 5G waveband along with the higher frequencies associated with mmWave coverage.

They previously offered a 5G Mi-Fi device but this was offered to a very limited customer base. Also Verizon offers a similar device with 5G and Wi-Fi 6 but their device only works the mmWave bands rather than the whole of the 5G band.

In addition, the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Pro, also known as the MR5200,  that AT&T offers has an Ethernet LAN connection for use with printers, network-attached storage devices, desktop computers and smart TVs. It has USB-C connectivity, most likely for power and data (5G modem) functionality.

The Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Pro is fit for purpose with American emergency service thanks to its ability to work with FirstNet, which is AT&T’s LTE emergency-services communications network,

This device is expected to cost US$510 upfront or US$17 / month over 30 months before service costs. As well, AT&T are offering data service plans for this device with you paying US$60 per month for a 15Gb monthly data allowance or US$85 per month for 35Gb.

Their overage fee is US$10 for every 2Gb over your plan’s limit and, at the moment, they don’t have a “throttled bandwidth” option available for their plans in lieu of that. That will limit AT&T’s 5G mobile-broadband service’s role to a secondary or temporary Internet service. It is symptomatic of an American telecommunications and Internet-service that has become highly concentrated over the last five years with it heading slowly back to the “Ma Bell” days.

AT&T is rolling out 5G mobile-broadband coverage over most of the key cities in the USA that matter with this coverage increasing at the moment.

But AT&T’s Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Pro is one of the first devices of this kind offered to a dense Northern-Hemisphere country that ticks all the boxes for the latest wireless mobile-communications technologies. That is to provide 5G mobile broadband across the low frequency bands and high-frequency mmWave bands and supply this data across a Wi-Fi 6 LAN.

It is showing that mobile-telephony carriers are fronting up with Mi-Fi devices that work the 5G mobile broadband and WI-Fi 6 standards, leading to some very capable devices and services.

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AVM moves towards value-priced Wi-Fi 6 with the FritzBox 7530 AX

Article – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

AVM FritzBox 7530 press image courtesy of AVM GmBH

AVM to launch the Wi-Fi 6 version of the FritzBox 7530 modem router in Germany as the FritzBox 7530 AX – an affordable Wi-Fi 6 option

AVM Fritz!Box 7530 AX kann vorbestellt werden | Caschy’s Blog

Das ist die neue AVM Fritz!Box 7530 AX | Caschy’s Blog

My Comments

This year is being the year where some home-network hardware manufacturers are offering Wi-Fi routers equipped with Wi-Fi 6 to the mainstream user segment. This includes some of these devices being offered either at an affordable price or as carrier-supplied equipment when you sign up to Internet service. As well some of the devices being offered are infact modem routers that have an integrated modem for the broadband service.

Now AVM has joined the party by offering the FritzBox 7530 AX home Internet gateway router initially to the German market. This unit, which will retail there from 1 September for approximately EUR€169 is based on the FritzBox 7530 modem-router family.

But its Wi-Fi access point is compliant to Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax) wireless-networking standards and uses a 2-stream approach for each waveband. This means it will offer 1200Mb/s data transfer speed on the 5GHz waveband and 600Mb/s on the legacy 2.4GHz waveband. It has a VDSL modem along with the ability to have one of the four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports as a WAN (Internet service) port for fibre-optic connectivity.

There is VoIP capability with a built-in analogue telephony adaptor for legacy handsets along with a DECT base station for DECT cordless handsets. It supports DECT-ULE-based home automation with a primary intention to work with AVM’s DECT-ULE home-automation devices, namely their smart plugs and thermostatic radiator valves.

Of course, there will be the secure reliable home-network expectations that AVM is know for. This includes keeping these devices automatically updated with the latest firmware, something that was considered out of the ordinary for this class of device.

What is being highlighted is the idea of more companies providing Wi-Fi 6 as part of a commodity-priced home-network router, which will lead to this wireless-network technology becoming more ubiquitous.

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Telstra’s latest Mi-Fi router ticks the boxes for future-proof operation

Article Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro mobile broadband router product picture courtesy of Telstra

Telstra now have a mmWave-capable 5G hotspot | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Telstra

Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro router

Press Release

Product Page – has latest pricing and mobile-broadband service contracts

5G mmWave Mobile Broadband Technology

White Paper

My Comments

Telstra has fronted up with their latest premium portable mobile broadband router for the 5G mobile-broadband infrastructure. But this “Mi-Fi” known as the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro ticks all the boxes as far as being future-proof is concerned.

Here, on the WAN (Internet) side, this device supports 5G with mmWave technology while on the LAN (local network) side, it works on the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard for 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands thus bringing your mobile network up to date with the latest standards.Of course it can work with existing 4G LTE networks and exploits what Telstra has to offer in this context.  This has a 4500mAh battery that can be removed and can run for nine hours providing full data transfer. It can be charged via a USB-C connection according to the QC 3.0 protocol and the open-frame Power Delivery 2.0 protocol, meaning you can charge it with your brand-new Ultrabook’s charger or run it for a long time using a USB-C PD powerbank.

The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro costs AUD$599 straight up. Or you could buy this device on a post-paid Telstra service plan for AUD$24.95 / month on 24-month plan plus mobile data plan the cost of the mobile-broadband data service.

What is this mmWave 5G mobile broadband all about?

The mmWave 5G mobile broadband technology is an extremely-high-frequency variant of 5G mobile broadband technology which works between 24GHz to 100GHz. Telstra’s initial trial run of this technology at Gold Coast worked on 26GHz. The same technology has been sued with various fixed point-to-point wireless links and satellite-Internet services but is use as a mobile broadband technology is what is being identified here.

Due to the very short wavelength, mmWave 5G technology will have a short operating range of a few hundred metres from the base station. This means that to cover a significant area, the service provider will need to install many “femtocell” base stations across the area and they will typically operate at a signal strength similar to a Wi-Fi access point or router. It means that the electromagnetic energy levels are 1000 times below the maximum energy level expected for safe operation.

Therefore mmWave 5G technology is pitched for operating environments where there is a high concentration of users so as to avoid “loading” very few base stations with many users, thus denying the users adequate bandwidth. This is a situation most of us will have experienced when attempting to benefit from an Internet resource on our mobile devices while on a packed commuter train.

Here, you will see this technology be used at busy public-transport interchanges including airports; event venues like convention centres or sports stadiums; or shopping centres. You may even find it being used in high-rise residential, commercial and hotel developments where there is expected to be many people within the development.

At the moment, Telstra has to license the necessary spectrum in order to set up a mmWave 5G service and will need to see other devices come on board prepared for this technology.

mmWave 5G mobile broadband will simply be pressed in to service as a complementary technology to the existing 5G mobile broadband technologies. In this case it is about highly-concentrated operating environments with many devices.

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An unmanaged Ethernet switch engineered for media streaming now available

Article

English Electric 8Switch audiophile Ethernet switch press picture courtesy of The Chord Company

English Electric 8Switch audiophile Gigabit Ethernet switch

English Electric’s NEW 8Switch Audiophile Ethernet Switch | Audio Bacon

From the horse’s mouth

English Electric

8Switch (Product Page)

My Comments

I have covered on HomeNetworking01.info the fact that the home network is being considered part of the home audio and video scene, even in the context of high-end applications where excellence is considered paramount. This is due to the rise of  audio-video content-streaming services including Spotify and Internet radio; along with the use of DLNA/UPnP-AV to facilitate the use of network-attached storage devices to share multimedia with dedicated home AV equipment. Have a look at these articles, and this one highlighting the Naim NDX audiophile network media player in order to see what I am about with this trend.

Naim NDS network audio player

… fit or audiophile network media players like the Naim NDX and NDS network media players

In the UK, where there is a significant small industry around esoteric hi-fi, a company has come forward with an unmanaged Gigabit Ethernet switch optimised for streaming multimedia, especially high-end music content. It is one of the first network-infrastructure devices targeted to the home or other small networks that is optimised for this purpose.

English Electric, a historic electrical-engineering brand resurrected by the Chord audiophile hi-fi connections brand, has answered the reality of the home network being part of a hi-fi setup. This is due to streaming content services like Internet radio, Spotify and Tidal along with the use of NAS units and DLNA-compliant network media players to play master-quality audio files through hi-fi setups.

Dish Joey 4K set-top box press picture courtesy of Dish Networks America

or set-top boxes and smart TVs associated with Netflix and similar online video services

This switch, known as the 8Switch, has been engineered for high data-packet reliability and resistance to electrical noise and mechanical vibration.

It uses a power supply of a similar standard to what would be used to power medical equipment in a hospital which is about providing clean reliable smooth power to the device while keeping AC-borne electrical interference out of the circuitry and network. The aluminium housing is designed to isolate the circuitry from surrounding mechanical vibration to assure reliable operation. Even the Ethernet sockets are optimised for high reliability and low noise in order to satisfy demanding audiophile/multimedia applications.

The clock circuitry that sequences the flow of data through the switch is specially optimised for real-time media streaming. This is thanks to a highly-optimised custom-designed crystal oscillator that assures high accuracy and reduced electrical noise, which yields reduced jitter and packet loss.

At the moment, the English Electric 8Switch is available in the UK for GBP£450 and is being sold through some UK-based hi-fi boutiques who sell Chord high-end audio cables. They will even throw in one of Chord’s audiophile/multimedia-grade Ethernet patch cords so you can connect it to your home network or a network AV component with the right cable.

Chord initially pitches the English Electric 8Switch being pitched to be used as a regional switch to interlink a cluster of network-enabled AV components include a NAS like a ripping NAS used primarily for storing multimedia content. It would be uplinked to your existing home-network router for Internet access when it comes to using streaming services or the rest of your home network.

I also see it of benefit for small-business and community-organisation audio/video setups that are heading towards using IP networks as an interconnection method. This would include those churches heading towards online livestreaming of services or small production teams using the latest network-based audio-video technology. It can even appeal to broadcast-LAN subsystems like Sat>IP where you are using multiple devices and want assured reliability for your devices’ network connection.

The English Electric 8Switch is another example of a home-network Ethernet switch that has been designed for a specific niche and devices like this could pave the way for companies to design network-infrastructure hardware that answer these specific needs.

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Telstra is the first telco to supply home-network hardware that supports Wi-Fi EasyMesh

Telstra Smarty Modem Generation 2 modem router press picture courtesy of Telstra

Telstra Smart Modem Generation 2 – the first carrier-supplied modem router to be certified as compatible with Wi-Fi EasyMesh

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Telstra

Telstra offers world-first Wi-Fi EasyMesh™ standard in new Smart Wi-Fi Booster™ 2.0 (Press Release)

Previous HomeNetworking01.info coverage on Wi-Fi EasyMesh

Wi-Fi defines a new standard for distributed wireless netowrks

My Comments

Typically Australian telcos and ISPs who supply a modem-router to their customers as part of providing Internet service are associated with supplying substandard hardware that doesn’t honour current home-network expectations.

This time, Telstra has broken the mould with their Smart Modem Generation 2 modem router and the Smart Booster Generation 2 range extender. Here, these devices support Wi-Fi EasyMesh so they can work with other routers or range extenders that are compliant to this standard.

At the moment, the Smart Modem can handle 4 of the range extenders and Telstra’s marketing collateral specifies that these devices can only work with each other. This is most likely due to the inexistence of routers or range extenders from other suppliers that work to this standard when the Smart Modem Generation 2 and Smart Booster Generation 2 were released.

The media release was talking of 450,000 Generation 2 Smart Modems in service around Australia, most likely due to NBN providing an excuse to upgrade one’s modem-router. As I said in my post about this standard, it is independent of the hardware base that the Wi-Fi infrastructure devices have thus allowing an extant device to benefit from this technology through a firmware upgrade.

Here, Telstra has taken the step of providing the functionality to the existing Generation 2 Smart Modem fleet by offering it as part of a firmware upgrade as what should happen with carrier-supplied network equipment. This will be done in an automatic manner on an overnight basis or when you first connect your modem to the Internet service.

This is showing that a telco or ISP doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel when offering a distributed-Wi-Fi setup. Here, they can have their carrier-supplied Wi-Fi EasyMesh-compliant modem router work with third-party EasyMesh-compliant repeaters that are suited for the job.,

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AVM earns Connect awards for their routers

Article – From the horse’s mouth

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

AVM earns more industry recognition for their Fritz!Box devices

AVM

AVM is delighted to win two Connect awards (Press Release)

My Comments

AVM has just earned two Connect awards for their German-designed home-network technology.

The first of these was for the Fritz!Box routers and mesh setup. No wonder they would earn industry recognition for their home-network products especially since they were the first company to break the mould regarding home-network routers by supplying self-updating firmware.

The issue of self-updating firmware became very important due to the fact that most of us aren’t updating our home-network router’s firmware regularly and it was a security hole. This is thanks to the “out-of-the-box” software coming with bugs and weaknesses that can be exploited by hackers against the typical home network.

Another step in the right direction was to implement distributed-wireless networking through a free software update rather than requiring customers to replace their AVM home-network devices. This was about providing a function update to the Fritz!Box modem router’s FritzOS firmware to open up this functionality. There was even the ability to roll out the functionality to Fritz!WLAN Repeaters and Fritz!Powerline access points to bring on the simplified distributed-wireless functionality to them all. It also applied to some recent-model Fritz!Box modem routers to cater for the reality that an older router can be “pushed down” to be an access point while the new router works as the edge of your home network.

But they also earned awards for their IP-based telephony equipment which was considered important as European telcos are moving towards IP-based telephony and away from the traditional telephone system. One of the products was a CAT-iQ DECT cordless handset that worked with their Fritz!Box modem routers that had DECT hase-station functionality for VoIP telephony. This had abilities similar to what you would expect of a mobile phone of the “feature phone” class.

What is being shown here is that the European companies are coming through on functionality innovation when it comes to the home-network “edge” router or infrastructure devices for your home network.

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The UK to mandate security standards for home network routers and smart devices

Articles UK Flag

UK mulls security warnings for smart home devices | Engadget

New UK Laws to Make Broadband Routers and IoT Kit More Secure | ISP Review

From the horse’s mouth

UK Government – Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Plans announced to introduce new laws for internet connected devices (Press Release}

My Comments

A common issue that is being continually raised through the IT security circles is the lack of security associated with network-infrastructure devices and dedicated-function devices. This is more so with devices that are targeted at households or small businesses.

Typical issues include use of simple default user credentials which are rarely changed by the end-user once the device is commissioned and the ability to slip malware on to this class of device. This led to situations like the Mirai botnet used for distributed denial-of-service attacks along with a recent Russia-sponsored malware attack involving home-network routers.

Various government bodies aren’t letting industry handle this issue themselves and are using secondary legislation or mandated standards to enforce the availability of devices that are “secure by design”. This is in addition to technology standards bodies like Z-Wave who stand behind logo-driven standards using their clout to enforce a secure-by-design approach.

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

Home-network routers will soon be required to have a cybersecurity-compliance label to be sold in the UK

The German federal government took a step towards having home-network routers “secure by design”. This is by having the BSI who are the country’s federal office for information security determine the TR-03148 secure-design standard for this class of device.  This addresses minimum standards for Wi-Fi network segments, the device management account and user experience, along with software quality control for the device’s firmware.

Similarly, the European Union have started on the legal framework for a “secure-by-design” certification approach, perhaps with what the press describe as an analogy to the “traffic-light” labelling on food and drink packaging to indicate nutritional value. It is based on their GDPR data-security and user-privacy efforts and both the German and European efforts are underscoring the European concern about data security and user privacy thanks to the existence of police states within Europe through the 20th century.

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

… as will smart-home devices like the Amazon Echo

But the UK government have taken their own steps towards mandating home-network devices be designed for security. It will use their consumer-protection and trading-standards laws to have a security-rating label on these devices, with a long-term view of making these labels mandatory. It is in a similar vein to various product-labelling requirements for other consumer goods to denote factors like energy or water consumption or functionality abilities.

Here, the device will be have requirements like proper credential management for user and management credentials; proper software quality and integrity control including update and end-of-support policies; simplified setup and maintenance procedures; and the ability to remove personal data from the device or reset it to a known state such as when the customer relinquishes the device.

Other countries may use their trading-standards laws in this same vein to enforce a secure-by-design approach for dedicated-function devices sold to consumers and small businesses. It may also be part of various data-security and user-privacy remits that various jurisdictions will be pursuing.

The emphasis on having proper software quality and integrity requirements as part of a secure-by-design approach for modem routers, smart TVs and “smart-home” devices is something I value. This is due to the fact that a bug in the device’s firmware could make it vulnerable to a security exploit. As well, it will also encourage the ability to have these devices work with highly-optimised firmware and implement newer requirements effectively.

At least more countries are taking a step towards proper cybersecurity requirements for devices sold to households and small businesses by using labels and trading-standards requirements for this purpose.

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The successor to the Freebox Révolution has arrived in France

Articles Freebox Delta press photo courtesy of Iliad (Free.fr)

Xavier Niel unveils new Freebox with Alexa, Devialet, Sigfox, Netflix | TechCrunch

French Language / Langue française

Free annonce ses nouvelles Freebox : la Freebox Delta et la Freebox One | FreeNews

Freebox One : pour les accros à Netflix (et c’est tout) | ZDNet.fr

Freebox Delta : voici la box qui doit sauver Free | ZDNet.fr

From the horse’s mouth

Free.fr (French Language / Langue française)

Freebox Delta (Press Release / Communiqué de presse – PDF)

Freebox One (Press Release / Communiqué de presse – PDF)

My Comments

While the “gilets jaunes” were protesting about the cost of living in France, Free.fr had just launched a long-awaited successor to the Freebox Révolution modem-router and media player setup.

The Freebox Révolution was a device symbolic of the highly-competitive telecommunications and Internet-service market that exists in France. It is a xDSL modem-router with an Ethernet connection and a NAS that is also a DLNA-compliant media server. It works with a set-top media player that has an integrated PVR and Blu-Ray player. But over the years, these units took on new functionality that was extraordinary for carrier-provided equipment such as VPN endpoint and Apple AirPlay functionality. Infact I saw it as a benchmark for devices supplied by telcos and ISPs for Internet access when it came to functionality.

Here, there are two systems – one called the Freebox Delta which is positioned at the premium end of the market, and the other called the Freebox One which is positioned as an entry-level offering.

The Freebox Delta has a server unit which combines a modem-router and a NAS that is equivalent to a baseline 4-bay standalone NAS. The WAN (Internet) side can work with a 10Gb fibre connection, an xDSL connection or a 4G mobile broadband connection. But it is the first modem-router that can aggregate the bandwidth of an xDSL connection and a 4G mobile broadband connection for increased throughput.

On the LAN side, there is a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) connection working across three bands and implementing MU-MIMO wireless connectivity. It is in conjunction with an integral four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch. There is the ability to link to the Freebox Delta Player in another room using the FreePlugs which are Gigabit HomePlug AV2 adaptors that Free.fr provides but these are actually network adaptors that use the USB-C peripheral connection approach.

The VoIP functionality that any “box” service offered by the French carriers provides has an RJ11 endpoint for a telephone as well as a DECT base station. There is a USB-C connection along with NFC support.

But Free.fr are even having the Freebox Delta as part of a home-automation system by providing hardware and software support for home-automation hub functionality. It is thanks to Free’s partnership with the Sigfox smart-home software platform. This is based around Zigbee technology with Free.fr and others supplying “smart-home” devices complying with this technology.

The Freebox Delta Player is effectively a connected speaker made by Devialet, a French hi-fi name of respect when it comes to speaker.  But it is a soundbar that uses 6 drivers to yield effectively a 5.1 surround-sound experience.

It works with a French-based voice-driven home assistant (OK Freebox) that handles basic commands but can work with Amazon Alexa which gives it access to the Amazon Alexa Skills library. This is achieved through a four-microphone array and is another way for a European company to effectively answer Silicon Valley in the field of voice-driven assistant platforms.

It can yield pictures to the 4K HDR 10 standard using an HDMI 2.1 socket compliant with the HDCP 2.2 standard and supporting eARC audio transfer that allows for best use with 4K UHD TVs. There is also a DVB-T2 tuner for over-the-air digital TV. You can control the Freebox Delta Player using a wirelessly-charged touchscreen remote which charges on a Qi-compliant wireless charging plate integrated in this media player. Let’s not forget that this device is up-to-date by implementing USB-C peripheral connectivity for two peripherals.

The Freebox Delta will cost EUR€480 to buy, with payment options of  EUR€120 per month over 4 months, EUR€10 per month over 48 months or the full upfront price being paid. The service will cost at least EUR€49.99 per month.

Freebox One press picture courtesy of Iliad (Free.fr)

Freebox One – the entry-level solution

The Freebox One is an entry level single-piece multimedia player and modem-router unit. This will have a Gigabit Fibre and xDSL connectivity on the WAN (Internet) side and Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the LAN side. There will be the DECT VoIP base for the telephony function along with a DVB-T connection for digital TV. It can work with 4K HDR 10 via an HDMI 2.1 (HDCP 2.2 compliant) port for your 4K UHDTV.

It has a front-panel display that is similar to the previous generation of Freebox systems.  You can get this device for EUR€29.99 per month for first year, EUR€39.99 per month as a Freebox hardware-and-services package of the kind you get in France.

With both Freebox systems, I would expect that Free.fr will regularly release new firmware that will add extra functionality to these devices over the years. When you get these “boxes”, you will find that there is more of an incentive to visit the “mis à jour” part of the user interface and frequently update their software.

By offering the Freebox Delta for sale rather tied with a multiple-play service package, Free.fr wants to be able to sell this unit as a device you can use with other services. This means that they can put themselves on the same footing as AVM by being another Continental-European source of highly-capable always-updated consumer premises equipment for your home network.

But what needs to happen is for the European consumer IT firms to create hardware and software platforms that can effectively answer what Silicon Valley has to offer. Who knows which European companies will end up as the “Airbus” or “Arianespace” of consumer and small-business IT?

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