In recent months, video conferencing has become integral to business thanks to the requirements of social distancing. Services like Microsoft Teams have struggled to keep up with the demand for online meeting tools, and Zoom reported that revenues have increased by 85% by the start of 2020 thanks to a greater need for video communications. With so much streaming being used, doing business today is going to need reliable routing systems to help deliver better web conferences.
But what about smaller businesses? What tools can a business owner that wants better video conferences to use to enhance their streaming performance? A SOHO router for web conferencing can meet this need by delivering dedicated stream support while not breaking the bank.
What is a SOHO Router?
SOHO routers are designed to deliver wired and wireless broadband network routing. Unlike traditional routers, these are structured specifically for small office/home office networks, which is where the SOHO acronym comes in.
With many offices adopting video conferencing to stay connected, SOHO routers for web conferencing will be able to maximize the streaming quality of the connection. Every connection will have the same IP address, and specific firmware on the device provides users with multiple connection points based on bandwidth needs.
Conferences and VoIP calls send information in data packets. Data packets can sometimes not arrive at their destination thanks to network congestion or a poor hardware configuration. When packets are lost during an online meeting, this causes jitter, which lowers video resolutions and de-syncs the video from the audio feed. With the quality of service (QoS) features, SOHO routers prioritize the traffic used for video conferencing to help reduce jitter and latency.
What Features Does Your SOHO Router Need?
To optimize video conferences, several router features are critical to seek out.
1. Quality of Service (QoS)
When thinking of QoS, a good way to imagine it is as a traffic cop that helps assist the flow of data across the home network. For the best flow of data without the loss of packets, sometimes the QoS has to slow down competing streams of data. Critical network traffic (your conferences) receives the boost it needs so that information isn’t lost during your meetings.
Sometimes, routers can serve as bottlenecks for network traffic and slow down the network across the board. When the video traffic for your meetings is prioritized, meetings will be clearer, even when the bandwidth is low. QoS settings are adjusted by a web portal to the hardware or by an app. In our product guide, all routers have configurable QoS features so that video conferencing services and processes are prioritized in the settings.
2. Dual-Band or Tri-Band Wi-Fi Support
A web conferencing router needs more than QoS tools to help manage traffic. A router provides extra connection points by splitting up the wireless connection into frequencies. This helps prevent connection issues by better allocating router resources. Here’s a breakdown of the primary two frequencies used in the majority of SOHO routers:
- 2.4 GHz – This serves as the default connection type.
- 5 GHz – These connections are faster but have reduced range.
A dual-band router grants access to a 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connection. Tri-band routers, on the other hand, usually grant access to one 2.4 GHz connection and two 5 GHz connections. Having several bands is beneficial because not all connections require the same amount of resources. Legacy devices without huge bandwidth needs can seamlessly connect to the 2.4 GHz connection. Newer devices, which require more bandwidth, can connect to the faster frequency and keep the connection lag-free.
5 GHz bands should be used for video conferencing since they are faster. Some products have two 5 GHz bands at the same speed, while others have two that have different data rates. If you tend to hold multiple meetings simultaneously, then two identical high-speed bands are the right way to go.
On the other hand, if you just want a fast connection for the office but also want a specific video conferencing band, then a slightly slower 5 GHz connection and a faster one working in tandem will also work.
3. Extended Range
Most devices that connect to video conferences do so wirelessly, so you’ll need a powerful Wi-Fi signal to prevent packet loss and jitter. A router that’s delivering a signal on a 2.4 GHz connection will reach 150 feet indoors and about 300 outdoors. Walls sometimes may interfere and reduce the strength of the signal. The faster 5 GHz router connections have a shorter range and won’t penetrate walls as easily. These connections only have a range of about 15 feet at maximum without signal extension.
Mesh routers extend the range of your Wi-Fi by using satellite modules that are placed around the office. They deliver a strengthened Wi-Fi signal to remote locations without hampering the digital signal of your web conferences. These mesh routers are designed to provide whole-office coverage. It does this without the need to worry about the direct range of the router, and it’s easy to extend the range by adding extra modules.
4. The Data Rate
VoIP and video conferencing depend on internet speeds, so how your router parses out that speed is critical. Even video conferencing activities like whiteboarding and screen sharing need a lot of bandwidth to emulate that on-premises feeling.
Megabits per second (Mbps) is the measuring tool for a router’s speed, and the maximum data rate varies from product to product. When on the market, link rates are most commonly labeled with AC numbers. Routers in our guide have numbers like AC1900, AC3000, and AC5400, which denote the wireless standard for these devices.
The number after the AC is the router’s maximum data rate, which is split across the bands. For example, on the Linksys Max-Stream router, the listed wireless network standard is AC5400. The 5400 indicates that the maximum rate on this product is 5,400 Mbps.
This tri-band router has 1,000 Mbps set aside for its single 2.4 GHz connection and 2,166 Mbps set aside for its two 5 GHz connections. This means that a significant amount of speed is allocated so that modern devices on the connection stream efficiently. With data rates varying from product to product, it’s a safe bet to err on the side of a router with a higher AC number. This way, your office will have more bandwidth for streaming on the 5 GHz connection(s).
5. Enhanced Security
You’re not going to want to go with any other router protocols than WPA or WPA2 for security. These protocols create encryption for all the traffic that’s sent through the router so that hackers can’t crack into your network and steal video data from your meetings. Of the two, WPA2 is more secure because it uses two algorithms to create encryption keys (TKIP and AES).
Routers from brands like Asus also have an extra layer of security that blocks malware and will even prevent your team from navigating to spurious sites. These extra features will protect your data so that valuable information isn’t endangered.
10 Best SOHO Routers for Web Conferencing
|Router||Dual/Tri Band||Max Data Rate||Max Bandwidth||Price Range|
|Linksys AC5400||Tri-band||2.4 GHz: 1,000 Mbps
|5,400 Mbps||$220 – $280 Buy here|
|ASUS AC3200||Tri-Band||2.4 GHz: 600 Mbps
|3,200 Mbps||$150 – $200 Buy here|
|NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 AC5000||Tri-Band||2.4 GHz: 600 Mbps
|5,000 Mbps||$150 – $200 Buy here|
|NETGEAR Nighthawk X10||Tri-band||2.4 GHz: 800 Mbps
|7,200 Mbps||$250 – $350 Buy here|
|TRENDnet AC3000||Tri-band||2.4 GHz: 400 Mbps
|3,000 Mbps||$200 – $230 Buy here|
|TP-Link AC260o||Dual-band||2.4 GHz: 800 Mbps
|2,600 Mbps||$100 – $140 Buy here|
|Asus RT-AX92U AX6100||Tri-band||2.4 GHz: 400 Mbps
|6,100 Mbps||$350 – $400 Buy here|
|NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S||Tri-band||2.4 GHz: 750 Mbps
|4,000 Mbps||$250 – $280 Buy here|
|Asus AC1900||Dual-band||2.4 GHz: 600 Mbps
|1,900 Mbps||$100 – $150 Buy here|
|NETGEAR Orbi Pro||Tri-band||2.4 GHz: 400 Mbps
|3,000 Mbps||$300 – $350 Buy here|
This Linksys router has an extensive range that covers 3,000 square feet in an office and provides coverage for up to 25 devices. The three connections of this router account for a 2.5 GHz gateway at 1,000 Mbps and two 5 GHz connections at 2,166 Mbps a piece. Both of these 5 GHz bands deliver fast streaming-quality connections for modern devices using MU-MIMO technology. This manages multiple connection points on desktops and smartphones with more efficiency.
There are also eight Ethernet access points on this product, so it’s a simple process to wire up the router to physical desktops.
- Two 2,166 Mbps, 5 GHz connections
- 3,000 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage thanks to eight antennas
- Eight physical gigabit Ethernet ports
- Price Range on Amazon: $220 – $280 Buy here
This router has six antennas and a maximum data rate of 3,200 Mbps split between three connections. Asus included its Smart Connect technology in this router, which parses out the data flow based on the needs of the device. For example, a device with an internet of things (IoT) connection will be allocated a low priority, whereas a device in Zoom or Cisco WebEx meetings will be given more bandwidth. This allows for attendees to be presented with a jitter-free HD video.
The three bands on this device include a 2.4 GHz connection at 600 Mbps and two 5 GHz connections at 1,300 Mbps. The router also has a Broadcom BCM4709 dual-core processor under the hood that makes the router behave almost like a dedicated server.
- Includes enhanced Trend Micro network security
- Intelligently parses out the bandwidth to connected devices
- The network map displays all of the active connections in real-time
- Price Range on Amazon: $150 – $200 Buy here
This is another router that uses MU-MIMO to better manage the bandwidth of each of the connected devices. In total, the Nighthawk X8 has eight Wi-Fi antennas – four internal and four long-range external. The device has a total range that will cover 3,000 square feet, so it’s more than adequate for most small businesses or home offices.
The Nighthawk X8 is a tri-band router. The 2.4 GHz band has a speed of 600 Mbps, and the remaining two 5 GHz connections run at 2,166 Mbps. This router has a dual-core processor running at 1.4 GHz. This helps it better manage priority connections and ensure high-quality streams for conferences.
- Eight active antennas
- 5,000 Mbps maximum speed
- Covers more than 3,000 square feet
- Price Range on Amazon: $150 – $200 Buy here
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 is the only product in this guide that will accommodate Wi-Fi devices that can use the 60 GHz band. 60 GHz Wi-Fi is rated for speeds up to 4,600 Mbps thanks to its usage of the 802.11 ad protocol. This is fast, but unfortunately, this band is blocked fairly easily by things like walls and doors. Still, for localized web conferencing around the router, this extra speed will cut packet loss significantly and greatly reduce the chance of web conference jitter.
Outside of its 60 GHz connection, there’s a 2.4 GHz connection at 800 Mbps and a single 5 GHz connection at 1,733 Mbps. The total range of the broadband router is 2,500 feet, so it should meet the needs of most small offices. There are six physical slots for Ethernet connections, and the quad-core processor that runs at 1.7 GHz also delivers automatic connection priority for streaming connected devices.
- 2,500 square foot range
- 60 GHz Wi-Fi compatibility
- MU-MIMO for allocating bandwidth when multiple devices are connected
- Price Range on Amazon: $250 – $350 Buy here
This is a small business router for those that want to provide a 5 GHz band for general use but still want a dedicated connection for video conferences. One band on the router has a speed rating of 867 Mbps, and the other 5 GHz connection speeds along at 1,733 Mbps. There’s also a slower 400 Mbps connection on the 2.4 GHz band.
This router has a business-grade design, and it can be rack-mounted with other servers or networking solutions or mounted on a wall thanks to slots in the router chassis. For those binding together a Wide Area Network (WAN), there are two-gigabit ports and eight standard LAN ports. For wireless connections, there are six antennas in total, but for optimal range, connections will have to be on the 2.4 GHz band.
- Three dedicated bands with varying bandwidth capacities
- Wall- and rack-mountable
- Dual-WAN allows for the connection of two WAN connections
- Price Range on Amazon: $250 – $350 Buy here
This is the first dual-band router covered here, and it’s a fitting option for businesses with smaller offices. The two bands on this router run at 800 Mbps for the 2.4 GHz and 1,733 Mbps for the 5 GHz band. This is also a router that uses beamforming technology. Beamforming allows the router to determine where each device is and focus the signal in that direction. Video conferences will be optimized thanks to more precise signal usage.
This TP-Link router also has a secure VPN, which permits you to access your office network remotely and adjust features like QoS without exposing the network. There’s a dedicated USB connector in the rear and six Ethernet connections for physical attachments.
- The router features beamforming
- Both bands have adequate bandwidth for small offices.
- Runs with a powerful dual-core processor
- Price Range on Amazon: $100 – $140 Buy here
The Asus RT-AX92U is a mesh-compatible router, so you can add different modules or additional routers to extend the connection across the entire office. Its Adaptive QoS software makes it easy for administrators to prioritize connections by app or scenario, and the interface allows for drag and drop controls.
Two devices are included as a sort of router package, which will allow you to extend your internet throughout the office. Asus calls these stations, and each has four LAN Ethernet connectors and a single 1-gigabit WAN connector. Each also has a 2.0 and a 3.0 USB connection for file transfers and printer connectivity.
- AiMesh technology for extending Wi-Fi range
- Adaptive QoS allows for customized web conferencing prioritization
- One 5 GHz band provides speeds of up to 4,804 Mbps for Wi-Fi 6 users
- Price Range on Amazon: $350 – $400 Buy here
This version of the Netgear Nighthawk serves as a midpoint between the two devices we already reviewed. It’s an AC4000 model, and it divides the 4,000 Mbps data rate by providing two 5 GHz bands with 1,625 Mbps speeds and a single 2.4 GHz band that runs at 750 Mbps. This router has a 55-device capacity, and it covers up to 3,500 square feet in office environments.
Netgear included their Armor system in the X6S as a layer of protection against malware and data theft. Beamforming and MU-MIMO features help manage multiple connections and create more stable connections for the devices that are viewing online meetings/streams.
- 3,500 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage
- Maximum speed capacity of 4,000 Mbps
- Built-in security features thanks to Netgear Armor
- Price Range on Amazon: $250 – $280 Buy here
The Asus RT-AC68U is a small business web conferencing router that is compatible with Asus’s AiMesh. With it, multiple routers and extension modules can be networked together to broaden the range of your Wi-Fi signal. This is an AC1900 router, so its maximum data rate will be 1,900 Mbps. This is split into 600 Mbps for the 2.4 GHz, and 1,300 Mbps for the 5 GHz band. For smaller businesses, this is more than enough bandwidth for most video calls and conferences.
The processor in this router is a dual-core CPU that helps the device maintain the prioritization of the connections that the router is managing. Additionally, Asus’s AiProtection technology is a firmware-based solution that actively blocks malware and malicious sites.
- Web-based and intuitive control interface
- Beamforming for more stable video conferencing, per device
- Price Range on Amazon: $100 – $150 Buy here
This business router has mounting features for installation on both ceilings and walls. Each unit is capable of forming a mesh to extend the SOHO network based on need. Per router, you’ll have a range of about 2,500 square feet. With an Orbi Pro and two satellites, 7,500 square feet of coverage in a single office is possible. Since it’s easy to add on to increase coverage, as a business grows, so can its network.
There are three bands on this wireless router; a 2.4 GHz with 400 Mbps and two 5 GHz bands capable of 1,733 and 866 Mbps. In addition to the three brands, the Orbi Pro has three predefined networks for admin/managers, employees, and guests.
- Ranges of up to 2,500 square feet, per router
- Mountable on ceilings and walls
- Roaming between routers without service interruptions
- Price Range on Amazon: $300 – $350 Buy here
SOHO Routers Improve Signal, Audio, & Video Quality
Web conferencing with poor signal quality or jitter hinders interactions with colleagues and clients. Finding the right SOHO router that prioritizes this kind of data traffic over standard internet or 4G LTE connections should be your next step. This is especially true if your business is growing and there’s a need to connect with callers around the world. Video is also an integral part of unified communications, so adopting a router to better fit your collaboration solutions will streamline how your team operates.
Not every router will have a scale for every size business, but these products will fit most business needs. As a rule of thumb, higher bandwidths on 5 GHz connections and QoS settings will deliver better video meetings.
Be sure to dig into the limits imposed by providers to get the most to of your new router if you’re using free video conferencing software to conduct business from home.
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