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802.11n WiFi router offers open source Linux platform

Oct 5, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 79 views

NetGear announced a Wireless-N (802.11n) router supported by its open source Linux development platform and “” community. The NetGear RangeMax Wireless-N Gigabit Router with USB (WNR3500L) offers an 802.11n WiFi access point, boasting up to 300Mbps bandwidth, five gigabit Ethernet ports and USB storage access, says the company.

Like NetGear's WGR614L 802.11g router announced in June 2008, the RangeMax WNR3500Lis supported by an open source Linux development platform and community site. Free, open source Linux firmware available at MyOpenRouter includes DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato, says NetGear. In addition, the company has established a new Development Partner Program for encouraging applications written for the device (see farther below).

NetGear RangeMax Wireless-N Gigabit Router with USB

Like the WGR614L, the WNR3500L incorporates a MIPS32-based system-on-chip (SoC) from Broadcom, but this time NetGear has moved up to the faster, 802.11n-focused BCM4718 Intensi-fi XLR SoC. Based on a MIPS 74K core, the SoC is clocked bty NetGear up to 480MHz (see block diagram below).

The BCM4718 includes an 802.11n basebound router chip, plus USB host ports to support media storage routers. Its simultaneous dual-band routers enable the 5GHz portion of the wireless network to be dedicated to video streaming and VoIP calls, while leaving the 2.4GHz band available for typical data applications, says Broadcom.

Broadcom BCM4718 block diagram

(Click to enlarge)

The WNR3500L is designed as a mini-tower, measuring 6.9 x 5.1 x 1.4 inches (175 x 130 x 35mm) and weighing 0.7 lbs (0.33 k), says NetGear. The device is equipped with twice the RAM and four times the flash memory as the WGR614L, offering 64MB of RAM and 8MB of flash.

The 802.11n access point supports bandwidth of up to 300Mbps, compared to a limit of 54Mbps for the 802.11g-ready WGR614L, says the company. The access point is said to be enhanced with a wireless repeater mode to extend range, and accompanied with three internal "Metamaterial" antennas. The company did not list the range provided by the device, but the 802.11n standard can theoretically offer up to twice the range of 802.11g.

WNR3500L port detail

Four 10/100/1000Mbps LAN ports and one 10/100/1000Mbps WAN port are provided, as well as another feature unavailable on the previous model: a USB 2.0 Host port. The latter is said to support USB networked storage, with DLNA/UPnP media server support, as well as USB-based remote access and 3G/4G/WiMAX cellular connections.

The WNR3500L's wireless connection is protected via a double firewall and equipped with denial-of-service attack prevention, says NetGear. The router wireless connection is secured with support for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2-PSK. Meanwhile, a "Push 'N' Connect" feature, which incorporates both a physical button on the device, as well as Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) technology, enables the secure addition of new computers to the network, says the company. and Developer Partner Program

The MyOpenRouter router community has been up and running for over a year now, and appears to offer extensive resources, while enjoying lively forum participation. The site offers open source firmware downloads, applications, forums, blogs, articles, source code, user guides, and technical support, says NetGear.

Linux-based router distributions available on the site that support the WGR614L include:

  • Tomato — replacement firmware for the Linksys WRT54G/GL/GS, the Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54, and other Broadcom-based routers
  • DD-WRT — an enhanced version of Linksys firmware that adds "enterprise" features like Radius authentication
  • OpenWRT Linux — community-supported Linux distribution designed for low-memory networking devices, and which first achieved popularity with hardware hackers bent on improving off-the-shelf consumer electronics products, such as the classic Linksys WRT54G WiFi router or LinkSys NSlu2

In addition, the company has established a Development Partner Program. Partners who are already working on WNR3500L applications include:

NetGear is known in the Linux device community primarily for its ReadyNAS line of network attached storage (NAS) devices that it acquired when it bought Infrant for $60 million in 2007. ReadyNAS devices run an Infrant-developed Linux distribution called RAIDiator.

Stated Som Pal Choudhury, senior product line manager for advanced wireless at NetGear, "Feedback and ideas from our open source community have been key in developing this powerful platform. We are therefore very pleased to announce our Development Partner Program, with multiple software vendors and developers creating customized, robust, commercial-grade applications on the WNR3500L."


The NetGear RangeMax Wireless-N Gigabit Router with USB (WNR3500L) will be available this fall at an MSRP of $140 through select retailers, direct marketers, e-commerce sites, and value-added resellers in the U.S. NetGear also sells a RangeMax Wireless-N USB 2.0 Adapter (WN111) for client devices.

More information on the WNR3500L may be found here, and the site should be here.

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