Buying a new router is a serious task for most tech-savvy shoppers. You need to balance price, performance, aesthetics, brand reputation, and local support.
A Wi-Fi router is the gateway to a home’s Internet connection for most households, and even techies don’t always access their line via an Ethernet cable.
The need for a high-quality Wi-Fi system has also become more important in recent years as fibre lines with speeds of up to 1Gbps are rolled out in South Africa.
The scenario above often leads to the question: Should I buy a high-end router locally, or should I import one from overseas?
I recently upgraded my home Internet connection to a 100Mbps fibre line and required a Wi-Fi router that would let devices take full advantage of the speed.
I decided on a Netgear Orbi RBK50 system from Amazon in the US, after researching its features and local versus international pricing.
Buying the Orbi on Amazon was simple and the product shipped directly to South Africa – which means all I did was pay and enter my delivery address.
The Orbi’s costs were broken into several categories, due to it being imported to SA:
- The Orbi cost R4,047 – $299 on Amazon.
- Shipping and handling was R1,032 – I selected express shipping.
- The Import fees deposit was R623.
- Total – R5,703
At the time of purchase, the Netgear Orbi retailed for around R8,999 in South Africa – meaning a significant saving for me.
The Orbi was delivered within a week of placing my order on Amazon, thanks to $70 express shipping.
The router was sent from Jacksonville, Florida, and worked perfectly once out of the box and plugged in.
With big savings and quick delivery, buying the Orbi from Amazon seems like a no-brainer – but there is a catch.
If you buy a router this way, you are essentially buying a grey import.
While it is not illegal to buy a router from the US, a manufacturer does not intend for its products to be sold like this.
This becomes an issue if you need local support or if your router is damaged.
While local distributors and retailers will gladly repair or replace damaged and faulty devices purchased locally through supported channels, taking in a broken router bought in the US is unlikely to yield the same results.
An industry expert told MyBroadband that purchasing a router in the US does have cost benefits, but there won’t be local support for it if there is a major problem.
South African distributors employee engineers and staff to support their products in the country, and also have agreements with manufacturers for router repairs and replacements if they are bought through approved channels.
This falls away in the case of my purchase.
If you are thinking about buying a “grey” router, this must be taken into account – particularly if it is high-value or you are purchasing multiple units.