Multiple Wifi adapters as WAN interfaces



  • I have a question for my new project I am trying to achieve.

    I would like to use PFsense to connect to multiple wireless routers to avoid the need for many meters of CAT 5, as im not prepaired to install conduit etc, and thus have cable everywhere. With wireless this problem will be eliminated.

    I havent had much time to play with PFsence to test its abilities, so therefore would be very apreciative if somone can assist with my questions.

    1. Can I install (supported) wifi cards into the machine im planning to run PFsence on, and have them show up as WAN interfaces?

    2. If the answer to the above is yes, is there a menu that would allow me to enter the WEP key etc for my AP's?

    3. Does PF sence support USB devices as WAN interfaces?

    thanks for your time.



  • @kaboooom2000uk:

    1. Can I install (supported) wifi cards into the machine im planning to run PFsence on, and have them show up as WAN interfaces?

    Yes.

    @kaboooom2000uk:

    2. If the answer to the above is yes, is there a menu that would allow me to enter the WEP key etc for my AP's?

    Yes.

    @kaboooom2000uk:

    3. Does PF sence support USB devices as WAN interfaces?

    As long as the USB-NIC is supported by FreeBSD it should work.

    The hardware compatibility list can be found here:
    http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/What_hardware_is_supported%3F

    However if you intend to run multiple WLAN links next to each other you will have problems with overlapping frequency ranges.
    About how many links are you talking?
    With 3 (on the channels 1, 6 and 13) it should work. Any more and you will start to notice a heavy drop in availlable bandwidth.



  • :) thanks very much for the reply GruensFroeschli, this has encouraged me to get the machine ready this evening to start some basic tests.

    Point taken on the frequency overlap, that is quite important and i will try to space them out across the band.

    Hmmm, I could try using some Yagi antennas or possibly just try spacing my antennas on suitable lengths of coax, but with coax there are losses, and major losses at 2.4ghz. This is one reason I asked about USB.

    I will study the wifi card page tonight, and plan my system. but for the meantime I have two lines I can run wired tests on to test functionality.

    for that kind of routing, would I benefit from a large CPU and good ram? or would an old pentium machine work ok. I have several to choose from.

    I plan to run for starters 2 links. but may expand later, How many links will PFsense support? an old windows tool called midpoint supported 8 NICs.



  • @kaboooom2000uk:

    Hmmm, I could try using some Yagi antennas or possibly just try spacing my antennas on suitable lengths of coax, but with coax there are losses, and major losses at 2.4ghz. This is one reason I asked about USB.

    Even with directional antennas you will have problems with overlapping frequencies.
    If possible you could move some links to the 5GHz band (802.11a).

    @kaboooom2000uk:

    for that kind of routing, would I benefit from a large CPU and good ram? or would an old pentium machine work ok. I have several to choose from.

    More wifi-cards dont require per default a better CPU. (the encryption of the wlan link is usually done on the WLAN card).
    How much bandwidth are you pushing overall?

    @kaboooom2000uk:

    I plan to run for starters 2 links. but may expand later, How many links will PFsense support? an old windows tool called midpoint supported 8 NICs.

    pfSense has no limit to the number of NICs you put into it.
    Mayb you'll run into problems with shared IRQs.
    Or you could have bad NICs. (With wired networks avoid realtek if you can).
    With decent hardware you shouldnt have a problem.



  • If possible you could move some links to the 5GHz band (802.11a).

    +1

    If you control both sides of the link, this is without a doubt a good idea. You'll get better bandwidth, more stable links, and no channel contention (12+ non-overlapping channels, depending on the region you're in). It's a much better idea for point to point links than 802.11g. But if you only control one side, it's obviously not an option.



  • Hi guys, thanks for the usefull information. I was very pleased at the ease of which I was able to deploy the package and install it on the computers hard drive. The system is running and an external port scan revealed that my ports appear to be stealth. I havent attempted to install any additonal WAN interfaces at this time.

    I may try the 5Ghz stuff, Il have to find some hardware to attach to my other routers, which I do control, so there is no problem there. Im thinking a 5Gghz AP, connected to router A, a computer with hardware to establish a wifi link to the 5ghz AP and then act as a router to provide internet into a NIC on the pfsence machine…. Its just i cant seem to find the controls for the Wifi cards in pfsence, do i need to install a package to get it to run?
    This seems to be the most feasable option as i have plenty of redundant machines from an old school.

    Im open to ideas on this one. Maybe im going the long way round to get this working... At least if i can connect to the AP, and then share it, and plumb it into Pfsence, it should count as a legitimate WAN input, in theroy.

    How much bandwidth, at this time on our site, we have 3 incoming connections, each is aprox 2Mb/sec. Each connection enters a standard ADSL router, and we have been basicaly running 3 separate networks off of each. I have thought that we can consolidate these connections to form a fault tolerant system and possibly even have the connections combined to give a better throughput. the outcome is that all users will expereince better browsing and download speed, and also in the event of line B going down, I can be sure that those users can still have internet acsess. without such a system they would be without connectivity on their isolated lan. while A and C will have connectivity. thats the plan.

    At this stage we are still in the backward 3 isolated LANs. I am thus, in the process of testing this idea, and hopefully, it will work. I am also thinking of setting up file sharing as well on another server then connect it to the lan, that way all users on the site can have thier own little areas to dump files.

    Its very pleasing to know that it supports more than 8 connections.

    By the way GruensFroeschli, what version supports the wifi adapters as WAN interfaces you mentioned, I think im using pfSense-1.2.3-RC1-LiveCD-Installer.iso for my system. If im ok with this version, would you be able to guide me through the process of setting them up?

    thanks again.



  • Did you look at the hardware compatibility list?
    I dont even know what hardware you intend to use, so i cannot say if it will work.

    To configure the wireless settings:
    Just go to the config page of the interface.
    (interfaces –> WAN, LAN, OPT1, OPT2, etc)

    If you didnt already, you first have to assign the interface under interfaces --> assign.



  • yes I did, it has been most helpful in sourcing the needed cards from ebay, im planning to use linksys cards when they arrive.

    So basing on what your saying, i can just keep adding interfaces on the assign page, and keep adding, until i cannot support any more? I dont want to make crazy assumptions, im guessing the additional WAN cards are going to be named OPT3 OPT4 etc etc right?

    thanks for your patcience.



  • Do these linksys cards have atheros chips on them?
    Generally you will have the fewest problems with ath cards.

    So basing on what your saying, i can just keep adding interfaces on the assign page, and keep adding, until i cannot support any more? I dont want to make crazy assumptions, im guessing the additional WAN cards are going to be named OPT3 OPT4 etc etc right?

    Yes thats right.
    You can add as many interfaces as you can (physically limited).


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