Most home networks fall under one of three categories:

  • ISP-supplied gateway (modem and wireless router combo) with optional wireless extenders
  • Discrete modem and a standalone wireless gateway / router (coupled with optional network extenders, or, a Wi-Fi system)
  • Discrete modem, discrete wired router, and switches / access points

All three choices have their pros and cons, with the first option being preferred by consumers who are not tech-savvy to begin with. In that case, the customer usually pays a monthly rental fee to the ISP. The maintenance of the gateway (including firmware updates) is handled by the ISP too.

Vendors such as Arris and Netgear have tried to play in this market segment with modem-router combo products in retail for direct purchase by the consumers. Such products have typically presented some usage challenges:

  • Unsatisfactory activation process for the modem-router combo device (unlike the case of the ISP-supplied modem)
  • ISP-handled firmware updates, preventing patching of router firmware for vulnerabilities / preventing users from taking advantage of new Wi-Fi router features developed by the vendor for their wireless routers product-line.

Today, Netgear is launching the Orbi cable modem - a dual PCB solution with the same form-factor as that of the existing Orbi RBK40 kit. The dual PCB solution refers to the cable modem and the wireless routers coming on distinct boards, with separate firmware for each. ISPs can handle the firmware update for the modem segment, while the consumers can update the wireless router firmware independently. The activation process has also been simplified by Netgear, with new features in the Orbi mobile app making it a seamless process.

Netgear has been very active in releasing new firmware features for their Orbi products (tying in with their pivot to a services-based revenue model for their offerings). Features such as 'Circle with Disney' (which has a premium subscription option) are turning out to be hits based on the feedback we have received from current Orbi customers. The ability to update the Orbi router firmware independent of the cable modem firmware is a key feature of the Cable Orbi.

Addressing the two main concerns with combo devices allows Netgear to promote the advantages of an Orbi with an integrated modem:

  • The modem / router device can act as the master in a mesh Wi-Fi system.
  • Combining the modem and router into one device implies fewer devices to purchase for the consumer.
  • Existing Orbi satellites can be repurposed for usage with the Orbi Cable master unit

Netgear has two SKUs with the Cable Orbi hardware - the Cable Orbi Router (CBR40), priced at $300, is a single device that integrates the modem and wireless router into one unit. The Cable Orbi Kit (CBK40) bundles a satellite with the Cable Orbi Router for $400.

Coming to the technical specifications, the CBR40's wireless components are derived from the AC2200 Orbi RBK40 introduced last year - a Qualcomm Atheros IPQ4019 network processor with Wi-Fi SON features, and separate 2x2 radios for the client devices and the backhaul. The cable modem PCB is based on the Intel Puma chipset (we have reached out to Netgear to confirm that it is not the one affected by the network latency issue. [Update: Netgear informed us that the CBR40 has all the patches they received from Intel to address the Puma 6 issues.]). It is a DOCSIS 3.0-compliant modem with a 32x8 channel bonding configuration supporting a maximum of 1.4 Gbps downstream and 262 Mbps upstream bandwidth.

Netgear is obviously building on the success of the Orbi lineup with the integration of a cable modem into the lineup. This definitely increases the addressable market for Orbi products within the home networking space. Consumers using ISP-supplied gateways to blanket large areas with Wi-Fi would do little wrong in opting for the CBR40 or CBK40. Power users and tech-savvy consumers might prefer a more flexible solution with a discrete modem, router, switches, and access points. The Cable Orbi is not meant for those folks. For the average consumer, the Orbi lineup now has SKUs that can cater to varying requirements and budgets.

Source: Netgear

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  • Elanie - Monday, October 1, 2018 - link

  • smartthanyou - Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - link

    Great…why have two reliable pieces of equipment when you can have one unreliable one.
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - link

    There's no evidence this hardware is unreliable. It's quite new after all so I doubt anyone has really had time to test it. As for merging functionality, this is a common theme among electronics. Cell phones merged with digital cameras, portable GPS devices, and incorporated PC-like functionality over the years and have proven useful to quite a large segment of the world's population. In my case, I have limited power outlets so my merged DSL modem and wireless router is useful to me. It also cuts down on clutter. Sure, I'd prefer a better performing device or a few more capabilities, but I honestly don't think about it too often and as long as the hardware does what it should, there's little to worry about.
  • Slangefar - Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - link

    Should be released with DOCSIS 3.1. We have 3.1 locally and the upload for 3.0 is to low.
  • Samus - Wednesday, May 9, 2018 - link

    Comcast just rolled out 3.1 in my area too, and without even upgrading my speed tier I noticed lower latency and better upload throughput on my new CM1000 over my old CM600 I gave to my parents. I only have 150Mbps\25Mbps internet, so either was overkill, but who wouldn't take 7ms pings over 19ms and 30mbps uploads over 26mbps uploads for free simply because of reduced protocol overhead and better channel bonding?
  • JoeDuarte - Saturday, May 12, 2018 - link

    The perfect design would screw directly onto a coax wall outlet. At the very least, every standalone cable modem should just be a hockey puck that you screw onto the wall, with an Ethernet out and a pass-through coax out (in case the coax is still needed by a nearby TV/cable box).

    A combined cable modem + router should still be a screw-on device, just a slightly larger hockey puck, maybe with four short antenna stumps sticking out flush against the wall (called the Crab or something?) Or maybe no external antennae, since Apple, Netgear, and others have been able to do without them for some routers (like the Orbi).

    There is still lots of room for improvement in the user experience for cable modems, routers, gateways, and DSL modems. There are a lot of things we could do regarding clutter, design, security, performance, Powerline and backhauls, etc. If anyone is looking for UX contributors in this space, I'm available, and you can reach me at
  • techservice - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Mesh WiFi systems consist of the main router that connects directly to your modem, and a series of satellite modules, or nodes, placed around your house for full WiFi coverage. They are all part of a single wireless network and share the same SSID and password, unlike traditional WiFi routers. to know more -

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