Home » The History of TP-Link, From Early Beginnings to US Expansion

The History of TP-Link, From Early Beginnings to US Expansion

by Maria Caballero
TP Link Company History

Founded in 1996, the multinational corporation TP-Link Technologies Co., Ltd has its headquarters in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, China. The brand manufactures computer networking products like routers, Ethernet hubs, gateways, and more. After a decade in the business and several product expansions into other networking equipment, TP-Link entered the international market in 2005. It built a US branch in Brea, California, and in 2008 it opened its doors to an overseas target market at a closer distance.  

 The Owners and Idea Behind TP-Link 

Long before TP-Link gained international fame, it began as a small company created to market a networking card created by brothers Zhao Jianjun and Zhao Jiaxing. The brothers felt inspired by Alexander Graham Bell’s invention, the Twisted Pair (TP) wire. The twisted wires could send more data, thanks to the reduced electromagnetic radiation on the data caused by the twist. TP wires provided more reliability and security in data transfer, which the brothers wanted to emulate in their company.  The Zhao brothers produced and marketed the network card and soon expanded their product offers to other networking products.

The company hasn’t provided much information online about the products that played a pivotal role in its early success. However, we can assume that the brand also began selling wireless LAN, routers, switches, and ADSL or 56K modems to Chinese clients. It also did its best to stay true to a business practice many other brands have followed: providing reliable products at an affordable price. In this case, TP-Link offered highly reliable wireless networking products to small businesses and home users at extremely affordable prices.  

Overseas Expansion, from US to Europe

 In 2005, TP-Link entered the international market, deploying its products to other countries. It kept its business practice of providing affordable and reliable products, which international clients appreciated. Its success led to the company’s relocation to a new headquarters and facility at the Hi-Tech Industry Park in Shenzhen, China, in 2007. The firm’s new location was 100,000 square meters wide. A year after this move, the company established TP-Link USA, a plant in Brea, California, that tested the American market thoroughly.  

In the following decade, TP-Link retained steady business, slowly growing its worldwide presence. Since opening an overseas branch in California, it has deployed its products to over 120 countries, opened various R&D branches globally, and expanded its product lines. The brand redesigned its logo and modified its slogan to “Reliably Smart” in September 2016. The rebranding resulted from the company’s expansion into the smart home product market. 

 Product and Service Recognition

In the following years, the firm released several solutions and products that improved its standing in the networking industry. In 2017, it launched the Deco M5, the brand’s first complete whole-home Wi-Fi system. In that same year, it ranked as the highest in customer satisfaction among wireless router providers. As a smart home product manufacturer, it also released smart lighting products, range extenders, cloud-based smart home platforms, smart plugs, smart cameras, and more.  

 In 2021, TP-Link received an iF Design Award for the Deco Voice X20 Mesh Wi-Fi system under the Product Design – Telecommunication category. The award came from iF International Forum Design GmbH (iF), the world’s oldest independent design organization based in Hannover, Germany. The Deco Voice X20 used the Wi-Fi 6 system and was the first with a voice-first capability via Alexa Built-in. On top of providing whole-home Wi-Fi, the product gave clients more control over their smart homes through voice.  

 After receiving a few CES Innovation Honoree Awards in 2021, the networking product provider became a CES 2022 Innovation Awards Honoree again for its AXE11000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6E Router, also called the Archer AXE200 Omni. This Wi-Fi 6E router worked on the 6GHz band, ran with a multi-gigabit performance, and had mechanically rotating antennas. The rotating antennas made the AXE200 Omni stand out from all the other products in the CES panel’s list. According to industry experts, the rotating antenna feature enhanced user experience and redefined the purpose of networking devices.  

 The company expanded its business networking product line in June 2022 with the Omada Outdoor Wi-Fi 6 Ceiling Mount Access Point, an outdoor access point made for businesses and home users. It came with a weatherproof IP67 Wi-Fi 6 outdoor access point. Because they’re made for small and medium businesses, Omada products made it easier for many clients to improve their Wi-Fi connections. 

 Remaining a Private Brand, IPO not in Sight

 Despite all its accomplishments and successes in the networking equipment industry, TP-Link never opened its doors to public stock trading or IPO filing.  

 The Networking Provider’s Subsidiary Brands 

 Tapo was a brand TP-Link launched in September 2019. The brand was created to focus on the small intelligent appliances market. Some of its initial products included a mini smart Wi-Fi plug called Tapo P100, a line of home security Wi-Fi cameras, and a line of smart lighting appliances. The brand took notes from TP-Link’s strategy of selling quality products at affordable prices. Despite its potential, it is still somewhat new to the market, so it has limited products.  

 The other TP-Link brand is Deco, a name full of mesh network technology for home users. Its first offer in its line of mesh products was the TP-Link M5 whole home mesh Wi-Fi system, followed by the M9 Plus and Deco P7. The latter was a power-line connected mesh-network system, allowing nodes to communicate through a home’s electrical wiring instead of on wireless transmissions. Like the Tapo brand, Deco brought its technology to the consumer market at good quality and affordable prices.  

 TP-Link Controversies and Product Issues

Although still a young company, TP-Link had its share of headlines around the tech community, mainly connected to their remote hijacking vulnerability, as well as an outdated firmware issue with one of the worlds largest webshops, Amazon.

  • Remote Hijacking Risk. A TP-Link scandal occurred in 2019 when thousands of its routers became vulnerable to a bug that allowed remote control. The exploit opened the door to low-skilled cyber attackers because it relied on the default router password, which many users don’t change. The person who discovered the bug, Andrew Mabbit of Fidus Information Security, disclosed the information to the company in October 2017.  The networking brand’s response was to release a patch. Mabbit cautioned the firm in January 2018 when he saw the same bug in another device. It took TP-Link over a year to publish the next patches.  
  • Vulnerabilities on Amazon’s Choice Products. In 2021, TP-Link became known for its security risks in some of its top router lines, like the Archer line. Despite becoming a best-selling Amazon product, the TP-Link AC1200 Archer C50 came with an outdated firmware version susceptible to known security vulnerabilities. On top of that, the router had a web interface app with subpar security and weak encryption, potentially affecting millions of users. The company released a new firmware update to fix the issue. Yet, the patch fixed only half the issue. TP-Link later stated that they’d force firmware updates on affected updates and provide relevant notifications to affected owners via the management interface.  

All successful tech companies have their fair share of scandals, including hacking reports, so this is not a surprise. 

The Company During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Like many other companies, TP-Link experienced a short crash at the beginning of the pandemic. However, in Q4 2020, the IDC Quarterly Wireless LAN Tracker listed it as the top provider of WLAN devices worldwide for a decade. In that time, the company had shipped 18 million WLAN products, taking up 17.8% global market share. It also boosted its business by providing various work-from-home and e-learning tech solutions to consumers.  

 TP-Link Today 

Most of the brand’s offered products today are reminders of its hold and roots in the networking sector. For example, the firm manufactures and produces items like Wi-Fi routers, range extenders, mesh systems, and switches for small and medium-sized businesses. Newer product categories include the Omada Software Defined Networking (SDN) platform. It’s a networking ecosystem (wireless access points, routers, and switches) controlled by the Omada software.  

 The other side of the coin for TP-Link’s products is all about the Smart Home. These products don’t only include smart cameras and plugs but also smart bulbs, light strips, and light switches. The company’s Smart Home category includes the Tapo and Kasa brands.  

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