As far as I can tell, the only downside to living in the woods, besides the bears and coyotes that are plotting to kill you at any moment, is the claustrophobic range of my home wi-fi router. But Netgear claims to have just the device to bring sweet, sweet internet into the great outdoors.
The new Orbi Outdoor Satellite, announced today, promises to expand your high-speed connection beyond your home’s walls and into the backyard using mesh networking, adding up to 2,500 square feet of wi-fi coverage anywhere you like, according to Netgear. The Orbi Outdoor Satellite has an IP56 rating for weather resistance, which means it can withstand dirt, rain, and sub-zero temperatures, allowing you to mount it on the side of your garage, pool house, or chicken coop carefree.
Mesh networking works by connecting multiple routers to each other, creating a web-like wireless network that allows you to move around a covered space without having to switch to a different, full-bandwidth wi-fi connection. That’s what makes them perfect for offices, large homes, houses or apartments with extra-thick walls, or, in my case, a sprawling woodsy backyard where I play fetch with my dogs, work on dirt bikes, and burn things in an obscenely large fire pit.
The Orbi Outdoor Satellite connects to your home internet service via Netgear’s Orbi router using a dedicated 5Ghz, 1.7Gbps channel, while your devices have their own channel that deliver full bandwidth and speeds up to 3Gbps. The system also creates a guest channel to keep all those pesky visitors off your personal connection. Setup for all of this take only “minutes,” Netgear claims, and connecting the new outdoor satellite is a simple as pushing a button or using the Orbi app.
The downside here is, of course, the cost. The original Orbi home wi-fi mesh system, which covers up to 5,000 square feet, will put you back about $300—significantly more than a high-quality old-school router. Then there’s the Outdoor Satellite itself, which costs another $329. If you have a large yard, you’ll need to add additional satellites, which can quickly become prohibitively expensive. On top of all that, the satellite must be plugged into a standard outlet, Netgear told Gizmodo in an email, which either limits where you can mount the node to spots with outlets or requires you to run electricity to it—a huge pain in the ass.
Still, our tests with the competing Eero mesh networking system found its high speeds to be splendid. And while we haven’t tested the new Netgear device, it appears to have the elements of a good solution for my internet-less yard.
While I may not be able to afford to bring wi-fi to every corner of my three-acre compound, the thought of being able to work outside in the summer sunshine, stream Spotify seamlessly while fixing my lawnmower, or watch Netflix under the stars sounds like a dream for this country bumpkin that just might be worth the hefty price tag.
Update, 1:26pm: Netgear tells me that the Orbit Outdoor Satellite does require it to be plugged into a wall outlet rather than being battery operated. That could restrict where you can place the device.