How to use 802.11n bridging for the fastest wireless speeds and best range

Here's how to use the emerging class of 'prosumer' routers to get the best combination of speed, range and security

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Trendnet Wireless N TEW-630APB

Currently, the Trendnet TEW-630APB supports bridging through 802.11n Draft 1.0. (A firmware update to Draft 2.0 is expected within about six weeks.) It uses Wireless Distribution System for bridging the router, which is actually a bit easier to configure, but will only work when you have two or more TEW-630APB routers that use the exact same firmware. Make sure you have the latest firmware installed by visiting Trendnet, clicking Support, finding the router model and downloading and installing the latest firmware.

Follow the basic CD install for both routers and note the MAC address written on the router's label. On the first (bridge mode) router, go to the IP address of the router in your browser -- the default IP is printed in the manual. Click "Advanced," then "Advanced Wireless." Place a check next to "WDS Enable" and type in the MAC address for the second (repeater) router. Click "Basic," then "Wireless" and uncheck the "Enable Auto Scan" option and select a channel that won't conflict with other wireless signals. (Use NetStumbler to determine which other routers are present and their channel number.)

Enable WDS and enter the MAC address for the repeater router. For the base station, use the repeater's MAC address.
 
Enable WDS and enter the MAC address for the repeater router. For the base station, use the repeater's MAC address. (Click image to see larger view)

On the other router that will repeat, follow the same steps, but this time use the MAC address for the base station router. Be sure to use the same channel.

Now, on both routers, enable WEP security. Click Basic, then Wireless, then scroll down to the bottom of the screen and choose WEP in the pop-up and type a Pre-Shared Key. Write the number down and repeat for the second router, using the same key. The second router will run in repeater mode to extend the 802.11n wireless signal farther.

Enable WPA-Personal security for both routers and enter a Pre-Shared Key.
 
Enable WEP security for both routers and enter a Pre-Shared Key. (Click image to see larger view)

Conclusion

So what's the next step in the evolution of 802.11n? Corporate support -- which is coming this year. D-Link, Netgear and Linksys are all releasing corporate-class wireless routers that will support 802.11n and bridging mode, as well as VPN and corporate-class WPA-TKIP. And, unlike the prosumer market, these models will be rack-mountable in the data center. Stay tuned for these advancements; until then, 802.11n Draft 2.0 is the best answer.

John Brandon is a freelance writer and book author who worked as an IT manager for 10 years.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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