Linksys Router Builds in Flexibility

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2003-05-26 Print this article Print

Linksys device eases WLAN migration by allowing sites to upgrade over time.

Linksys WRT55AG
Linksys WRT55AG wireless dual-band a and g broadband router puts a high degree of flexibility into organizations WLAN upgrade plans. This four-port Ethernet switch with 802.11a, b and g capabilities enables companies to gradually upgrade to 54MB-per-second speeds while utilizing older 11MB-per-second hardware. Prices start at $299, which is slightly higher than competing products.
  • PRO: Supports Ethernet, 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g connections; provides good upgrade path to 802.11g.

  • CON: Technical support only for systems running Windows 98 or later; additional measures needed to boost WEP-level security.

    D-Links DI-774 A+G Router ZyXel Communications Co.s ZyAir AG Access Point
    With Linksys Group Inc.s WRT55AG dual-band wireless 802.11a and 802.11g broadband router, enterprises wavering on which wireless standard to support can have their cake and eat it too. Businesses looking for wireless flexibility will appreciate the routers broad support of wireless standards, as well as its impressive interoperability and usability features.

    Released last month, the $299 WRT55AG is a four-port 802.11a and 802.11g Ethernet switch that also supports the 802.11b wireless protocol. Enterprises that want to gradually upgrade to 802.11g but keep using their 802.11b hardware or want to take advantage of 802.11a speeds in the meantime, will be hard pressed to find a more flexible solution.

    In eWEEK Labs tests, we easily configured the WRT55AG by accessing a Web-based startup utility. After entering the time, IP addresses, and details such as SSID (Service Set Identifier) and settings for the 802.11a and the 802.11b/g networks, we were up and running within 5 minutes.

    When it came to interoperability, the WRT55AG had no problems connecting with our wireless adapter cards of varying age and protocol from a variety of vendors. Using a D-Link Systems Inc. DWL-650+ CardBus Adapter, an SMC Networks Inc. 802.11a Wireless CardBus Adapter and a Linksys Dual-Band Wireless A+G CardBus Adapter, we easily connected to the 802.11a and 802.11b/g test networks.

    The WRT55AG also had no problems connecting with newer hardware, including an Acer Inc. TravelMate 800 Tablet PC, which is based on Intel Corp.s Centrino mobile technology and includes built-in 802.11b support.

    Organizations with mixed operating environments should note that although the WRT55AG will run on Windows, Macintosh and Linux networks, Linksys will provide technical support only for Windows 98 and above.

    As past tests have shown, performance variations among vendors are minimal. Tests of speed and range showed the WRT55AG performed as well as Linksys single-mode counterparts—if not better. We could simultaneously download MP3s on one computer, stream video on another and check e-mail on a third, with no noticeable degradation in performance.

    As with competing routers, the security built into the WRT55AG—in features such as media access control address filtering and WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption (up to 152 bits) for wireless interfaces—wont stop determined hackers. However, the router has virtual private network pass-through support and comes with a stateful packet inspection firewall and Internet access filtering to ensure the legitimacy of packets as they enter the network.

    The routers default SSIDs are factory-set, and WEP is uninstalled. We recommend that users change the SSIDs and enable WEP at installation to help protect the LAN from compromise.

    Linksys announced last month plans to support the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security protocol. WPA, a replacement for WEP, offers enhanced data encryption and authentication (See Tech Analysis, Security Beyond WEP).

    WRT55AG firmware and software upgrades that support WPA, expected this summer, should be easy to install using the Web-based setup utility.

    eWEEK Labs Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

    As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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