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The big news is that the 2870W is the first wireless bridge to support Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). For reasons too long to go into here, supporting WPA in bridging devices is especially challenging, but appears that SMC (or more likely the folks at Ubicom who make the processor that the 2870W is based on) has managed to come up with a working implementation.

SMC2870W - Bridge mode Security Settings, Web interface

Figure 4: Bridge mode Security Settings, Web interface
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

As Figure 4 shows, WPA-PSK with TKIP encryption is the only mode supported to similarly-equipped Access Points or Wireless routers. WPA won't work between two 2870Ws, because it isn't supported in AdHoc mode until its next version. If you can't or don't want to use WPA, good ol' 64 and 128 bit WEP is also available.

Tip Tip: Running in WPA mode was a little less forgiving than without it. I found you must explicitly enter both the SSID and BSSID of the AP you want to connect with or it won't work. When running with WEP or without any encryption at all, I could use a blank SSID and didn't have to set the BSSID at all and things connected just fine.

When you switch to Access Point mode, you'll find that WPA-PSK / TKIP is still the only WPA mode supported. But as shown in Figure 5, the 2870W also offers the ability to pass 802.1x authentication requests off to an external RADIUS server. Of course, 64 / 128 bit WEP is also supported (it's below the 802.1x configuration section on the Security page).

NOTE!NOTE: In Access Point mode, WPA is supported only between client and AP. WDS-based bridged / repeated AP-to-AP data can be WEP encrypted, but not secured via WPA.

Figure 5: AP mode Security Settings, Web interface
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

AP mode also gives you a few more "Advanced" settings to mess with (Fragmentation and RTS threshold and Beacon and DTIM periods) and provides access to the Repeating feature.

Repeating supports wireless connection between up to six devices that support WDS-based bridging, as well as letting clients associate and communicate through each AP. So multiple APs can be used to extend your wireless LAN's range without the need to run Ethernet to connect them.

The Access List feature lets you list 30 MAC address which are allowed to associate, but it doesn't show a pick-list of associated clients or allow a pre-made list to be loaded in order to ease setup.

Monitoring features in both modes is very basic and provided mainly via the System Info page. There are no traffic statistics and you only get a list of associated client MAC addresses in AP mode, and in-range APs and AdHoc stations when set to Bridge mode.

One last note is that the 2870W supports the PRISM Nitro throughput-enhancement features. But they're enabled by default and you can't turn them off.

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