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Low-cost, 802.11ac mesh router runs on OpenWrt

Dec 6, 2019 — by Eric Brown — 10769 views

FreeMesh Wireless has launched a “WE1326 LTE FreeMesh Router” that runs OpenWrt on a dual-core MediaTek MT7621AT with 802.11ac, 4x GbE, WAN, USB, and a SIM slot for 4G. It costs $150 with two FreeMesh nodes.

FreeMesh Wireless has begun selling a $150, OpenWrt based mesh router designed for residential or SOHO environments, billed as “the only open source mesh package.” The hackable software is based on secure 802.11s multi-hop and 802.11r Fast BSS Transition (FT) technologies, which add mesh capability to the 802.11ac router.



WE1326 LTE FreeMesh Router (left) and WE1326 with two FreshMesh Nodes
(click images to enlarge)

The OpenWrt Linux stack enables Quality of Service (QoS), SAMBA, Virtual Private Network (VPN), and other routing and tunneling applications. It also supports network sharing, print serving, and NAS (network attached storage). The argument for moving to mesh routers is that the growth of bandwidth hungry devices throughout the home requires multiple routers to keep up, especially in larger homes or homes with thick walls.
In an infomercial-like interview on Superb Crew, Spencer Thomason — FreeMesh Wireless project leader and co-founder of the CleanRouter gateway filtering company — touts the WE1326 router for its hackability, ease of setup, low cost, and data privacy compared to mesh routers such as Google Nest WiFi and Eero.
The beta-level WE1326 LTE FreeMesh Router is available for $150 for a router and two lower-powered FreeMesh nodes. The Eero currently sells for $190 for a three-pack while a Google Nest WiFi three-pack sells for about $355.
The 11 x 9 x 3-inch WE1326 FreeMesh router runs on an 880MHz dual core (MIPS 1004KEc) MediaTek MT7621AT. This low-power SoC is also found on devices such as the GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 NAS system.
The WE1326 FreeMesh router is equipped with 512MB DDR3, 16MB SPI ROM, and a microSD slot. The dual band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11a/b/g/n/ac router is supported with 2x 5dBi 2.4GHz and 2x 5dBi 5GHz external antennas. There are also 4x GbE ports and a GbE WAN port, all with Auto MDI/MDIX support.
A SIM card slot is available, supported with a pair of internal, 3dBi 3G/4G antennas. The router has a USB 2.0 port for NAS storage and runs on 12V/2A power.
There were fewer details on the FreeMesh Node, which has a 580Mhz processor, 128MB of DDR2, and dual-band 802.11ac.


Open-Mesh OM2P-PS

The claim about being the only mesh router with open source software may well be true. In an Amazon search for open source routers, we found only one such device, which is currently unavailable: a dual-LAN, 802.11n-enabled Open-Mesh OM2P-PS . This appears to have run Open-Mesh BATMAN, one of several open source mesh stacks out there along with OpenWISP, LibreMesh, and for wide-area mesh, the Commotion Wireless Project.
If you don’t need mesh, there are many routers with open source, typically OpenWrt-based, software, and a few of them, such as the Turris MOX, also provide open hardware specs. Lately, Linux hacker board projects have been releasing more open-spec router boards and enclosed systems such as the recent NanoPi R1S-H3.
 
Further information
The WE1326 LTE FreeMesh Router is available in beta for $150, including dual FreeMesh Nodes. More information may be found in FreeMesh Wireless’ announcement and product and shopping page. The GitHub page is here.
 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

2 responses to “Low-cost, 802.11ac mesh router runs on OpenWrt”

  1. Ray Knight says:

    GitLab page seems to indicate that the nodes are zbt-we826-16m. OpenWrt page for that unit is at https://openwrt.org/toh/zbt/we-826.

  2. FreeMesh Wireless Team says:

    That is correct. The nodes are zbt-we826-16m

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