Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Eero takes on Ubiquiti with PoE-powered access points and a PoE gateway

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When it comes to networking, Wi-Fi is great for convenience, but it can’t hold a candle when it comes to performance and plain old reliability. Amazon seems to have taken this idea to heart, as it is introducing an Ethernet jack-loaded gateway, supporting power over Ethernet, or PoE, in its Eero lineup. There will also be a PoE access point next to it.

Popular with businesses and home networking enthusiasts alike, the technology allows you to run a single cable to your networking equipment instead of connecting power and Ethernet separately. For those willing to pay for the equipment, it should provide more flexibility for where to mount Eero access points or even allow people to achieve cleaner cable runs.

The company’s first PoE access point is called the Eero PoE 6. In terms of performance, the $299.99 device falls somewhere between Eero’s 6 Plus and Pro 6E entry points; like the 6 Plus, it only supports dual-band Wi-Fi 6 instead of tri-band Wi-Fi 6E like the Pro AP. However, the PoE’s speeds, coverage, and capacity specs are closer to the Pro 6E, which is available at the same price, than to the $139 6 Plus. Amazon says the PoE 6 supports speeds of 1.5 Gbps over Wi-Fi (the PoE port is rated for 2.5 Gbps), “more than 100 connected devices” and provides up to 2,000 square feet of coverage.

To go along with the entry points, Eero is introducing a PoE gateway, which the company’s CEO, Nick Weaver, described at a briefing as the “first dedicated wired Eero device.” According to a press release, it supports Internet speeds of up to 10 Gbps, has two Gigabit Ethernet ports and eight 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports that support PoE. (The faster ports are for data only, not power.)

Image of the Eero PoE Gateway, a black rounded rectangular device with ten Ethernet ports and a USB-C port on the front.

Okay, it does look super cool. And who doesn’t love USB-C?
Image: Eero

Those ports can power many access points, although you don’t necessarily need eight PoE Eeros to use them all; you can also use the gateway to power other PoE devices, such as VoIP phones or security cameras. Across its eight ports, the gateway can deliver up to 100W of power as long as it’s connected to its 140W power supply rather than its 45W power supply. (Weaver said in an email that the “Eero PoE Gateway will ship with the 140W power adapter when it becomes available for purchase on Amazon.com early next year.”)

At $649.99, the PoE gateway is definitely priced as prosumer equipment. Ubiquitis Switch Enterprise 8 PoE comes in at $479, although it’s worth noting that the Eero has built-in routing capabilities, while you’ll need to connect the Enterprise 8 to a separate router. According to Weaver, the gateway has “the same router functions as other Eero devices”. If you have multiple PoE gateways, one acts as a router and the other acts as switches.

The gateway is not a required accessory to use the PoE 6 access points. Weaver said those “can be powered by any PoE source” or with a USB-C power supply. They can also act as access points or gateways, such as the Eero, Eero Pro, Eero 6, or Eero 6 Pro. Both the gateway and the access point can be managed with the Eero app.

Amazon appears to market these products primarily to professional installers and small businesses, and Weaver said they are designed for “higher performance installations,” meaning offices and homes with professionally installed setups. In the US and Canada, professional installers can get the PoE 6 from October, while regular consumers will have to wait until “early next year” to pick it up or the gateway on Amazon.

Image of an Eero PoE gateway in a cabinet, connected to other network equipment in a rack.

Most people won’t have these kinds of settings at home (but I’ll bet most people reading this will).
Image: Eero

Despite Amazon’s focus, it’s easy to see that these products are also relatively popular with home networking enthusiasts. As someone who has once installed a lot of Ubiquiti equipment – and used PoE heavily before that – but eventually moved to a simpler solution, this system seems tailor-made to me. (Or at least a version of me who had money to burn and the need to power a city-block-sized house with Wi-Fi.)

In addition to the devices, the company is also announcing two software services called Eero for Pro Installers and Eero for Business. Eero for Pro Installers enables businesses and contractors to remotely manage and troubleshoot their customers’ Eero networks. Professional installers get the service included with every PoE 6 or PoE gateway they purchase. Eero for Business aims to make company equipment more attractive to companies that don’t necessarily need IT teams, so they can set up things like multiple SSIDs and captive portals.

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