Best mini-PCIe wireless for accesspoint mode.


  • Hello,
    I have been using Pfsense for about a year now as router/nat on my ESXi system.
    Now I need another access point/router/server capable of having a HSDA connection as WAN (e.g. no Ethernet connection).
    As of the near (I hope) release of 2.0 I think I might go with that. Also I would prefer Pfsense because the ease of setting up ipsec between my two networks.

    I have been looking around and I think my best option is to go for a mini-ITX atom based system.
    The Intel board D510MO seams good and cheap but I need a wireless card to go with it.
    It has a mini-PCIe port and that is the only option because of a cramped case.
    I would prefer a fast card (maybe n?) but still a reliable option that will operate in access point mode.
    What wireless network card would you get for your access point miniITX, mini-PCIe system?
    Would the recommended card also be available on ebay or similar site it would be more than perfect!

    Thank you for your help!
    /X


  • Some mini PCIe cards require a USB electrical interface. (That is true of the VIA WiFi NIC on my netbook.) Other mini PCIe cards require a PCIe electrical interface. Hopefully the motherboard provides both. I expect the technical documentation for the motherboard would say.

    The driver for some Atheros PCI WiFi cards supports access point mode. The driver for some Atheros USB WiFi chips doesn't support access point mode.

    Access mode is supported on both the supported Ralink PCI chipsets and the supported Ralink USB chipsets.

    There are lots of possibilites. I suggest you find out if the motherboard mini PCIe slots provides USB electrical interface or PCIe electrical interface (or both), look on eBay for a matching mini PCIe WiFi card with a Ralink chipset, find out the chipset identifier and then ask about support for that chipset.

    If you are open to using a USB device with USB connector (not a USB device on a mini PCIe card) then TP-Link WN-321G and Tenda W311U are both available from retail outlets where I live for under the equivalent of US$20. Here, the story is not particularly straightforward either. More details in some of my previous posts. (Search the forums for my posts containing Ralink.)


  • Thank you for your answer.
    I would like to use your proposed devices if I only had the need for internal antennas.
    Unfortunately this is not the case.
    This server/router will be deployed in an storage house and I hope it will provide wireless connectivity at my summer house on an area around 1000m2 with a couple of houses (I hope to have average indoor coverage) and a large garden/forest. There for I will mount external WLAN antennas outdoor on the roof together with a directional 12dbi HSDPA antenna.
    There for I need the feature of external antenna(s).
    I thought of two of this kind: http://cgi.ebay.com/Antenna-10dBi-Wireless-WiFi-Panel-Indoor-Outdoor-RP-SMA-/170550435740?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27b5991f9c#ht_3632wt_905

    I read the user manual of the motherboard. It does not mention if it provides USB electrical interface.
    What it does mention is "PCI Express x1 Mini Card (rev 1.2 compliant) connector"
    And at Wikipedia  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express#PCI_Express_Mini_Card) we can read:
    "The host device supports both PCI Express and USB 2.0 connectivity, and each card uses whichever the designer feels most appropriate to the task. "
    and
    "PCI Express Mini Card edge connector provide multiple connections and buses:
    PCIe×1
    USB 2.0
    SMBus

    ..."

    If I have interpreted the manual right it does support USB elecrical interface as wallabybob mentioned? Please correct me if I'm wrong!

    Now on to the task of finding a card...


  • Buy a separate access point.  Your life will be a lot easier.


  • @valnar:

    Buy a separate access point.  Your life will be a lot easier.

    Thank you for the tip but that is not an option.. Then I could skip the whole motherboard and server.
    I would like to use pfsense as access point.

    do you have any suggestions?
    I found this: Atheros AR5BXB72 AR5008 802.11n
    Will it work?


  • Why is a separate AP not an option?

    Honestly, Ubiquiti makes such good stuff at such low prices that I don't even bother to build APs any more.


  • @mhotel:

    Why is a separate AP not an option?

    Thank you for your comment. I might rethink my decision I need to find a good WLAN card that supports my proposed hardware. Somebody?
    I'am not familiar with Ubiquiti's products. Do they have something similar hardware vise to what Im looking for?

    An separate AP is not an option because as my intention is to deploy this AP/router/server/VPN link/Backup/../.. at my cottage out in the archipelago and there first I like to save energy and second I like to save space and frustration on several systems. I do not want to look for failures in more than one system.
    It should be as easy to flip the switch to get it working again. (my sister has to be able to handle it)
    I also need external antennas and thought this was the easiest way. But maybe it isn't..


  • I can see that.  I personally won't be interested in pfSense to deploy to relatives until somebody makes hardware that not only includes wireless as you want, but a 4-8 port switch without software bridging.  Until then, dd-wrt is my usual recommendation.  But for my home, three separate devices is not only mandatory, but preferred.


  • In addition to their outdoor gear Ubiquiti also makes a range of high performance embedded radios and several embedded system boards.  They use a lot of Atheros.

    Oh, and their spectrum analyzers start at $39 US.

    Looks like someone is already tinkering with pfSense on a RouterStationPRO (which does have an onboard switch, GigE no less!)


  • @mhotel:

    Looks like someone is already tinkering with pfSense on a RouterStationPRO (which does have an onboard switch, GigE no less!)

    Not enough ram though.


  • @valnar:

    I can see that.  I personally won't be interested in pfSense to deploy to relatives until somebody makes …

    I do understand that.. but when it comes to this deployment the only need for a copper connection would be extensive administration on the wifi settings. As I mentioned earlier the place of the AP will be in a storage house that is not heated during the winters so the temperatures could drop down to about -30 Celsius. And i really doubt that anyone (especially my sister) would like to sit connected with a cable in those temperatures…
    That is why I would like to have as fast WiFi as possible and my question is still unanswered.
    Will the Atheros AR5BXB72 AR5008 802.11n work in pfsense 2.0 and AccessPoint mode (AP)?
    Or what other mini-PCIe card allows AP and fast speeds 150Mbit+?


  • The card probably does work in 2.0, but only using at most the 54 Mbps speed of 802.11g or 802.11a.  No 802.11n rates yet on any card, as far as I know.


  • @Efonne:

    The card probably does work in 2.0…  ...No 802.11n rates yet on any card, as far as I know.

    Thank you for a quick reply!
    Could you please hint me a mini-PCIe card that will certainly work in AP mode and might get the n capabilities later?
    I guess I have to settle for 54Mbit for now but would like to have n speeds in the future.


  • The card you last mentioned should probably work, but I don't have any experience with mini-PCIe cards on pfSense, so I couldn't really say for certain (I've only used PCI and mini-PCI).  As far as I know, I think the driver for Atheros-based cards gets the most work, so it may be your best bet if you are buying it hoping for 802.11n speeds later.  It could possibly be the first that will get 802.11n rate support, unless there is another driver where it already works or if someone pays to get it working on some other card.

    If you want 802.11n speeds now, I think your only option is to use a separate access point.


  • I use a Atheros AR5007EG on the plate D945GSEJT
    AP mode working properly.


  • @kew:

    I use a Atheros AR5007EG on the plate D945GSEJT
    AP mode working properly.

    Looks really interesting!
    And on what software are you running that on?
    the 1.2.3 or the 2.0 ?