The lowly internet router has seen a bit of a resurgence of late. Between Google's efforts with the OnHub, Eero's multi-unit mesh routers, and even Starry's new touchscreen model, plenty of companies are trying to make your home Wi-Fi experience better. Portal, a new model hitting Kickstarter today, is the latest router to claim to solve modern Wi-Fi problems.
The Portal comes from Ignition Labs, a technology company founded by a group of ex-Qualcomm engineers. On the surface, it's most similar to high-end routers from Netgear, Asus, and others, as it has high-powered, dual-band antennas, support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, beamforming, MIMO, and more. All of that is packed into a sleek, white box that doesn't have any external antennas or protrusions. Kickstarter backers can get the Portal for $149 during the crowdfunding campaign, and the company says it will ship by the end of the summer.
The Portal's trick is that it can run on unclogged airwaves
Ignition says the Portal is different from other routers because it can operate on previously unavailable 5GHz spectrum. These special airwaves have previously only been accessible for radar purposes, and consumer routers have not been able to take advantage of them. As a result, Wi-Fi networks have become increasingly congested, especially in urban areas, and speeds and performance have suffered as a result. The Portal, which can take advantage of this unique spectrum, thanks to special hardware and software developed by Ignition, avoids these congestion issues and provides faster throughput and greater range. The company says that most devices produced within the past five years can connect to the Portal's network with no issues.
Company co-founder Terry Ngo likens a Wi-Fi network to a waterfall, with the router being the peak of the fall. As you get farther away from the peak of the fall, the intensity of the water's movement weakens, just like a Wi-Fi signal gets weaker the farther away from the router you are. Things like interference from other Wi-Fi routers and devices lessen the power of the Wi-Fi waterfall from the start, but since Portal avoids that interference, it has a much stronger waterfall that can travel farther throughout a home or building.
Portal's congestion management and expanded spectrum access allow it to perform up to 300 times faster and with three times lower latency than other routers, according to the company. That translates into better performance when gaming, streaming high-definition video, or during other bandwidth-intensive tasks.
In addition to its unique spectrum access, the Portal router supports mesh networking (so multiple units can be linked together to cover a large home), simple setup via a mobile app, and app-based guest network access. The router itself has five gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB ports for network attached storage.
Given how much of the devices in the modern world depend on Wi-Fi — whether it's your phone, game console, laptop, or even a thermostat — it's not a huge surprise to see so many companies attempting to improve the performance of Wi-Fi in your home. We're eager to see if Portal and its unique approach is able to stand out from the many other options available now.