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Linksys WET11 Wireless Ethernet Bridge Review

Introduction

The Linksys WET11 Wireless Ethernet Bridge is a device that can be used to share a broadband connection via 802.11b, or simply to link two Ethernet networks together. The growth of the use of 802.11b network technology closely mirrors the march of broadband and many people are wanting to share their broadband connections with other computers in a house, without the problems of hiding network cables under floors or linking different floors together. It should be noted that to make use of the Linksys WET11 you will require an ADSL modem and combined router, i.e. a device to terminate the ADSL line and provide an Ethernet connection suitable for the WET11.

The WET11 is cheaper than a lot of wireless access points (WAPs), simply because it is such a simple device, essentially it will act as a transparent connection to an Ethernet network. This means unlike a lot of traditional WAPs, it does not introduce complications of an additional NAT router, which makes it ideal for people who already have an Ethernet ADSL modem/router. An additional advantage of using separate wireless devices is that the market is changing rapidly and new faster standards are emerging so by using modular devices it is cheaper to upgrade in the future, additionally the small size of the WET11 makes it simple to pick an optimum location for it.

One interesting area is that the Linksys WET11 is able to link the X Box and Playstation 2 games consoles to broadband connections via 802.11b. The WET11 provides a very neat solution to the growing problems that exist in many houses, of how to get the broadband connection to where the games console is used.

What do you need to get going?

Well, the WET11 comes with everything you need to create a wireless network, except for 802.11b network cards for your computer. Any brand of card should be suitable, the price of simple PCMCIA cards for laptops has dropped to around £30 now.

The WET11 arrives with a the standard power brick, a quick install guide, CD with configuration software, an antenna, the WET11 itself, and a short 2metre CAT5 cable. This means you have everything to do the initial configuration for the device.

The device has four LEDS, the LAN and WLAN flash to indicate activity, PWR informs you that the device is switched on and the DIAG or diagnostics LED is used for fault indication purposes.

The operational modes of the Linksys WET11

Before using the WET11 it is best to consider the type of configuration you will be using. There are two modes to consider:

Sharing a broadband connection - Ad Hoc mode

This mode is perhaps the most common mode people will be using. This involves linking the Linksys WET11 to an existing ADSL router. The WET11 will then allow computers with their own wireless network cards running to see the adsl router. The WET11 will remain transparent, which means that computers using the wireless will behave as if they had a network cable running to the adsl router, the big advantage of this is that all the computers connected via the wireless and wired networks will be able to see each other. With a great many WAPs they use a NAT router to share the connection, which can result in the wired and wireless networks being separate.

Converting a wireless network back into Ethernet - Infrastructure mode

Infrastructure mode with the WET11 is best used when you have a network that already incorporates a WAP. The WET11 can be used to connect a single computer to the wireless network by plugging the WET11 into the computers Ethernet socket (examples of this are getting a XBox online). Alternatively the WET11 can be used to bridge a small wired network, over onto the wireless network. An example of the bridge setup would be linking two remote buildings, where you do not want the expense of providing every computer with a wireless network card.

Configuring the Linksys WET11

The basic setup is identical for both operational modes; the quick installation guide makes it very easy. The WET11 has a simple physical setup as shown in the picture below:

The sequence for setting up the device is as follows:

  1. Plug the supplied Ethernet cable into the LAN port on the WET11
  2. Set the cross over switch to the correct position. Use the X position when connecting to a network card.
  3. Plug other end of cable into the Ethernet socket on a PC. It is best to connect to a PC that is currently disconnected from any existing network.
  4. Connect up the power brick
  5. Run the setup software on the supplied CD, this will auto detect any WET11's that are connected. If it fails to connect ensure the LAN LED is illuminated on the WET11.
  6. The next stage is to choose the connection mode, Infrastructure or Ad-hoc
  7. Configure the wireless parameters, i.e. channel ID (SSID), channel number and a name for the bridge.
  8. Configure the TCP/IP parameters, either static IP or obtain an IP from a DHCP server. If setting static make a note of the value, as the device has a web interface to allow changes to the configuration without using the software CD.
  9. Setup the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), this keeps your wireless network secure.
  10. Confirm the settings and exit the wizard.
  11. Reset the WET11 and connect it in the required configuration.


Screenshot of configuration software after detecting a WET11 Bridge

The setup is fairly simple, if you find that the unit is not running as expected simply connect it back to a lone PC and use the configuration software to gain access. If using a static IP address for the WET11 you can access it's web configuration by pointing a web browser at that static IP. This can also be done if using a DHCP server, but you will need to check the DHCP servers IP lease table to determine what IP address the WET11 is using.

The web configuration is essentially the same as the software, but as it is simply a set of web pages it will work on computers that do not run MS Windows. In its default state the WET11 has an IP address of 192.168.1.225 and to gain access the username and password are both admin. If you do not have a PC at all, the initial configuration can be carried out by connecting it directly to your computer and giving the computer an IP address in the range 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.1.200 and a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0.


Screenshot of web configuration after a reset to factory defaults

For those people using XBox or Playstation 2's, Linksys has posted a couple simple How To guides, these are available on the web. Xbox setup guide and Playstation 2 setup guide.

Performance

For this review, the WET11 was used in both infrastructure and Ad-hoc modes. The device proved reliable in both types of configuration mode. The only time that access to the setup screen was required was during reconfiguring of the device to try different network layouts.

The wireless coverage appears to be better than the previously reviewed Linksys WAP11. Following my standard FLAT wireless test procedure I was able to obtain coverage around 100m away with the device located in a building, (2Mbps speed at 100m with window and partial outer wall obstruction), moving around the locality I was even able to get a 1Mbps signal through 5 concrete/brick walls. This is a couple of walls and an extra 30-40m than I obtained from the Linksys WAP11 and around 20m better than an ELSA Lancom Access Point. People may find that the situation will differ in their locality, due to building construction and interference from other devices. Hopefully this walk about testing will be reasonably reproducible and as more wireless hardware is reviewed an idea of what kit has good and bad ranges can be determined.

Throughput wise, running in Ad-hoc mode I was finding speeds of around 430KB/sec (3.4Mbps) as the average, and ADSL speed tests ran at virtually the same speeds as a computer using Ethernet. Not exceptional performance but more than adequate for sharing an ADSL connection which for the IP Stream Home 500 service runs at around 60KB/sec (0.5Mbps). Latency wise, around 1-3ms can be expected for pings to an ADSL modem/router when using the WET11 in Ad-hoc mode and appears to perform well even as the speed of connection drops, I did not see an adverse ping or packet loss on the wireless network until I had moved to a position where a 1Mbps wireless signal was all that could be found.

Conclusions

The Linksys WET11 has a street price of around £88 to £119, which brings the cost of creating a small wireless network down considerably compared to 12 months ago. The costs and hassle of laying say 20 metre of CAT5e cable around a house are starting to look more trouble than they are worth, particularly if you have just decorated or do not have cavity walls.

The WET11 is an ideal device for people on a single IP service wanting to share their ADSL connection and means that rather than isolating the wireless network it becomes a simple extension to your LAN. Of course this means that use of the WEP encryption to give you security is recommended, unless you want the neighbours to borrow some bandwidth or have a friend who is close enough to you pick up the wireless signal but not get ADSL for some reason. The bridge capabilities are further enhanced by the external antenna, which allows the connection of antenna that have better gain or are more directional for extending the range. For people without MS Windows the setup is not as simple, but it is still easy enough to get the hardware up and running.

In summary an excellent little piece of kit, that aims to be, and is a pleasure to use. Certainly it gets around all the problems of people trying to setup both an ASDL router, and a wireless router and getting WAN/LAN IP ranges mixed up.

The cost of 802.11b kit is falling rapidly and will continue to do so now that 802.11a higher speed networks are appearing. Today's pricing is rapidly moving into reach for many computers users.


Prices: Street price between £88 and £119, Linksys WET11-BT Wireless Ethernet Bridge
Prices listed above are excluding postage and VAT.
 
Links:
 
http://www.linksys.com
 
Where to Buy: See our DSL Hardware FAQ

Andrew Ferguson
andrew@thinkbroadband.com

The contents of this review should not be relied upon in making a purchasing decision—You should always discuss your requirements with your service provider and hardware supplier.