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Cisco 802.11n router for SMBs runs Linux

Dec 16, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 8 views

Cisco announced a Linux-based WiFi router touted as the first 802.11n dual-band clustering access point for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The Cisco AP 541N Wireless Access Point includes 802.11n, gigabit Ethernet, “robust” security, voice roaming, and clustering technology, enabling a single point of administration for multiple access points.

Unlike the 802.11n-ready Linksys by Cisco Wireless-N Broadband Router with Storage Link (WRT160NL) announced in June (pictured at right), the Cisco AP 541N Wireless Access Point foregoes the Linksys brand, aiming a bit higher for the SMB market where it is a relative newcomer. (Cisco already offers several high end enterprise 802.11n routers, such as its 800 series and 1900 series Services Routers.)

Applications for the Cisco AP 541N include mobile data, voice over wireless LAN, wireless video monitoring, and highly secure guest access, says Cisco. The router can be used as a standalone access point in small wireless environments, or it can be deployed as part of a larger data and communications network, such as the Cisco Smart Business Communication System (SBCS), says the company.

Cisco AP 541N Wireless Access Point
(Click to enlarge)

Cisco does not list the processor used in the router, but says the device offers 64MB RAM and 32MB flash memory. A single gigabit Ethernet port appears to be the only wired I/O connection.

The 802.IIn WiFi radios operate in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and offer up to 300Mbps throughput, says the company. Three external antennas are said to provide a range of up to 310 meters (1,017 feet) at 2.4GHz, and 255 meters (837 feet) using the 5GHz radio. The antennas offer a gain of 2.0 dBi, and provide omnidirectional coverage for offices and similar RF environments.

The 12.1 x 1.7 x 7.1-inch router is power-over-ethernet (PoE) capable and draws a maximum of 9.9 Watts, says Cisco. The three-pound unit also offers LEDs for major functions.

Clustering and extra wireless security

Unlike the Linksys routers, the Cisco AP 541N provides clustering technology, which is said to simply wireless deployments by creating a single point of administration for multiple access points. The technology replicates a configuration, pushing it out to other access points, while continuously managing the frequency channels for each device, thereby reducing interference, says Cisco.

The AP 541N also offers more robust security than Linksys routers, with support for WEP 64-bit/128-bit, WPA-Pre-Shared Key (WPA-PSK), WPA2-PSK, WPA-ENT, and WPA2-ENT protocols. The device includes an authentication for client compatibility, as well as MAC address authentication, client isolation, and rogue access point detection, according to the company.

Web-based configuration tools are touted as making it easy for business users to install the access point. Additional features include voice roaming support, with good voice quality using 802.11i pre-authenticated standards, according to Cisco.

Specifications listed for the Cisco AP 541N include:

  • Memory — 64MB RAM
  • Flash — 32MB
  • Networking — 1 x gigabit Ethernet
  • WiFi — IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n Draft 2.0 compliant with 2.4GHz / 5GHz transceiver
  • Antennas:
    • 2.4GHz and 5GHz operation
    • 2.0 dBi gain
    • 360 degree horizontal beam width
    • Supports 2T3R MIMO single radio module with 3 x antenna ports
  • Security:
    • WEP 64-bit/128-bit, WPA-Pre-Shared Key (WPA-PSK), WPA2-PSK, WPA-ENT, WPA2-ENT
    • Wireless connection control, MAC-based
    • SSID broadcast enable/disable
    • Supports wireless client isolation between and within SSIDs
    • Wireless clients can be authenticated via IEEE 802.1X
  • Status LEDs — Power, PoE, Diag, Speed, LAN, and WLAN 2.4G or WLAN 5G
  • Power:
    • 100 to 240 VAC; 50 to 60 Hz
    • 12VDC, 1.25A
    • 9.9 W max. power draw
    • PoE capable
  • Operating temperature — 32 to 104 deg. F (0 to 40 deg. C)
  • Dimensions — 12.1 x 1.7 x 7.1-inches (308 x 44 x 180mm)
  • Weight — 3 lbs
  • Operating system — Linux

Cisco AP 541N

The 802.11n standard boasts as much as twice the range of 802.11g, with better service quality and far greater bandwidth: from the typical maximum of 300Mbps to an theoretical 600Mbps.

To achieve these speeds, 802.11n can use both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, adding technologies such as "channel bonding" — borrowing bandwidth from an adjacent channel — and MIMO (multiple-in-multiple-out) spatial multiplexing, which uses multiple radios and antennas to simultaneously process incoming signals and thereby improve clarity.


The Cisco AP 541N Wireless Access Point is available now from a variety of sources, starting at $350.

More information may be found on Cisco's main AP 541N page, which offers links to retail sites, here, with more detailed technical information available at a European Cisco page, here.

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