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{mospagebreak toctitle= Introduction}

Introduction

This time it's not the FCC website that provides a view of an upcoming Linksys product, but Linksys' own website instead. The WAP54GPE Wireless-G Exterior Access Point appears in the Wireless Basic Networking section next to the WCG200 Wireless-G Cable Modem Gateway.

The WAP54GPE

Figure 1: The WAP54GPE

It's an 802.11b/g access point housed in a weatherproofed, heated enclosure and powered via 802.3af Power over Ethernet. According to the User Manual available on the FCC website, it supports up to 8 wireless Virtual LANs (VLANs) as well as WDS-based wireless bridging (more on this shortly).

Figures 2 and 3 show the indicators on the front panel and connector ports on the top and bottom of the enclosure. If you choose to not use the built-in patch-style antenna, you can attach a single external antenna via single male N-type connector on the top.

WAP54GPE front panel

Figure 2: WAP54GPE front panel
(click image to enlarge)

The single 10/100 Ethernet connector on the bottom panel provides connection to the user's wired LAN and also brings in power from an 802.3af compliant PoE source.

WAP54GPE ports
Figure 3: WAP54GPE ports
(click image to enlarge)


Inside Story

The internal pictures on the FCC website provide a detailed view of the GPE's construction. Figure 4 shows an open-case view, with the dual internal patch antennas clearly visible in the left-hand module.

Covers off view

Figure 4: Covers off view
(click image to enlarge)

With the antenna board removed, the power supply is visible, as is the heater module positioned over the boards (Figure 5).

Heater and power supply visible

Figure 5: Heater and power supply visible
(click image to enlarge)

Once the heater module is removed, you can see the main board with separate mini-PCI radio (Figure 6).

Main board with radio exposed

Figure 6: Main board with radio exposed
(click image to enlarge)

The GPE uses an Intel-based design, more similar to the unannounced WAP54GP than the standard Broadcom-based WAP54G. Figure 7 shows an Intel IXP425 Network Processor, Kendin KS8721 supplying the 10/100 Ethernet port and one of the two Dynachips D98SD12816 RAM chips. The other is on the bottom of the board along with a single Intel TE28F640 Flash chip.

Main board with mini-PCI radio removed

Figure 7: Main board with mini-PCI radio removed
(click image to enlarge)

Figure 8 completes our tour of the GPE's innards, showing the mini-PCI 802.11b/g radio based on the Ralink RT2560 802.11b/g Baseband/MAC processor and RT2525 tranceiver.

mini-PCI radio

Figure 8: mini-PCI radio
(click image to enlarge)

Functions, Pricing & Availability

As mentioned earlier, the GPE supports up to eight separate wireless LANs, each with its own SSID and VLAN-separated traffic. Figure 9 shows that you can also set the priority for each VLAN to low, medium or high to help balance traffic. Note that you can set SSID, VLAN priority and transmit rate separately for each VLAN, but SSID broadcast disable applies to all VLANs, as does the mode and channel.

Wireless LAN setup.

Figure 9: Wireless LAN setup
(click image to enlarge)

WEP and WPA-Personal (PSK) and WPA-Enterprise (RADIUS) security is supported, along with allow / deny MAC address filtering. But the more secure WPA-2 is not supported.

Bridging and Repeating features are WDS-based, which means that you can't use the GPE to link to just any 802.11b/g AP or wireless router. Instead, both ends of the wireless bridge must support WDS and you'll need to enter the MAC address of the other end of the bridge on each unit. The GPE can't act as a wireless client, either, so forget about slapping it up on the outside wall of your apartment to grab the signal from a nearby open WLAN.

Availability is anyone's guess, although it's a hopeful sign that the product is actually live on Linksys' website. A letter in the FCC file reads:

"To Whom It May Concern:
Please be advised that due to the unique function supplied by this product, this device is intended for use as a Wireless LAN bridge only and will be distributed through controlled distribution channel which has trained professional to install this product and will not be sold directly to the general public through retail store."

so it's likely that you won't see the GPE in general retail distribution.