A company can go down one of two roads when it creates a new product: It can follow all the rules and regulations and craft the best product its engineers are capable of designing, or it can flout the rules and regulations and cheat its way to market dominance.
Netgear is accusing Asus of taking that low road in the Wi-Fi router market, and the company has filed both a complaint with the FCC and a lawsuit seeking damages and injunctive relief on grounds of unfair competition and false advertising.
In an interview last week, Sandeep Harpalani, Netgear's director of product marketing, core networking, told me Netgear is accusing Asus of knowingly shipping two products--the RT-N65U 802.11n wireless router and the RT-AC66U 802.11ac wireless router--that do not comply with FCC regulations.
Netgear claims that these and other Asus routers deliver higher wireless output levels than the FCC allows, and that Asus conspired with a third-party testing lab, QuieTek Corp., to submit false test results to the FCC. "We do not believe this could have happened by accident," said Harpalani.
In my tests late last year, Asus's RT-AC66U delivered better range than any 802.11ac router I had benchmarked to date (I haven't tested the RT-N65U, which is also named in Netgear's complaint). Netgear manufactures a very good 802.11ac router, too: the R6300. But as I said in my review of that product: "Netgear's R6300 is an exceptionally good router, but it's not better than the Asus RT-AC66U."
It's a sticky situation, as the FCC hasn't yet dealt with Netgear's charges. That said, if the agency determines that Asus's RT-AC66U achieved superiority by defying FCC regulations, I can't recommend the router to anyone, because it may interfere with other radio communications, including other wireless devices you might be using in your home.
Netgear's Harpalani said that his company complained to Asus directly about this matter earlier in the year, and that Asus failed to respond satisfactorily. According to Harpalani, Netgear discovered that Asus was cheating when it acquired sample Asus routers from retailers and conducted some of its own tests. "But we cannot do the complete FCC test," he said, "because the power-output levels have to mimic a client. You have to enable a special mode in the firmware that allows this. It cannot be enabled in the shipping firmware."
According to Netgear's lawsuit, Asus's RT-N65U, RT-AC66U, and other unnamed Asus routers fail to comply with a host of FCC regulations, including specifications for operational mode/description, peak power output, radiated emission band edge test, power density, radiated emission, RF antenna conduction, and occupied bandwidth.
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