2020-02-12

Wi-Fi Ethernet Bridge Adapters

For some, their mobile communications needs require a Wi-Fi to Ethernet Bridge. In our test case we had the bridge directly connected to the ethernet port on a non-production pfSense NGfirewall. This created a private Wi-Fi network. Although non-production, we had the firewall connected to the Internet. This allowed us to perform some basic testing. We tested three bridges. The results were surprising.

IOGEAR Ethernet-2-WiFi Universal Wireless Adapter (Model GWU637)

Cyber Defense Contractors purchased the IOGEAR Ethernet-2-WiFi Universal Wireless Adapter. It came at the price of $44.53 USD. Setting up the adapter was straight forward. However, the user interface was rough and incomplete. The product felt more like an after thought. It appeared that IOGEAR didn’t care to invest much development into this product.

During the configuration we made several attempts to select the SSID of our mobile hostpot. We had supplied an initial WPA2 passphrase in the configuration. However, it didn’t match that of our mobile hotspot. When attempting to change the passphrase on the bridge it wouldn’t take. It kept reverting back to the incorrect passphrase. Ultimately we had to change the passphrase on our mobile hotspot to match the incorrect passprase on the bridge. After the change it automatically connected each time we enabled the mobile hotspot. We used the bridge for about a month. It eventually failed. We’d would select our mobile hotspot Wi-Fi network but the bridge kept scanning through Wi-Fi channels and never actually connected.

We felt the price of $44.53 was fair for a product with this type of functionality but were left disapointed when we saw the interface, experienced the issues with the WPA2 passphrase, and saw the eventual failure of the product. It wasn’t worth requesting a replacement.

IOGEAR GWU637 Wi-Fi-2-Ethernet Product Description Page.

Netgear Universal N300 Wi-Fi to Ethernet Adapter (Model WNCE2001)

Next we purchased the Netgear Universal 300 Wi-Fi Ethernet Adapter for the price of $187.00 USD. A fairly steep price tag for the functionality that a device like this provides.

It appeared that Netgear didn’t do much more than IOGEAR did from a product development perspective. The user interface was a bit better than the IOGEAR bridge. It had the familiar Netgear look but still felt incomplete. We made several attempts to connect to our mobile hotspot using WPA2. Each time we disconnected the USB cable that supplied power to the bridge the IP address of the bridge would revert back to the default. We were never able to make a Wi-Fi connection. No further testing could be done. The product went back the same day it arrived. At the steep price tag, with the lacking user interface, and the product quality we chose to forgo any further testing of the product.

Netgear Universal N300 Wi-Fi to Ethernet Adapter Product Support Page.

TP-Link AC750 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router (Model TL-WR902AC)

Finally, we tried the TP-Link AC750 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router. This rang in at a price of $34.97 USD and was the most affordable of the three.

The TP-Link is at a more realistic price point for a Wi-Fi to Ethernet bridge. When unboxing we immediatly felt that we were working with a better, and more mature product. The device can operate in one of five modes.

  • Router Mode
  • Access Point Mode
  • Hotspot Mode
  • Client Mode
  • Range Extender Mode

The packaging boasts of 300 Mbps + 433 Mbps Dual Band Wi-Fi. We plan to test those figures with iperf after this basic functionality testing.

The bridge claims to support the IEEE 802.11ac/n/a standards at 5GHz running at 433 Mbps speeds with an 11AC Wireless Adapter. It also supports up to 150 Mbps with 11N Wireless Adapter. For the IEEE 802.11b/g/n standards at 2.4GHz it’s capable of reaching 300 Mbps speeds.

We connected the TP-Link bridge directly to a laptop. We gained access to the web interface through the http://tcplinkwifi.net url which resolves to 192.168.0.1. We logged in with the default username of “admin” and a default password of “admin”.

Immediatly we felt that TP-Link invested more time into their bridge than either IOGEAR or Netgear. The web interface was substantial.

The adapter found the SSID of the mobile hotspot right away. We merely had to click the connect link next to the hotspot entry and supply the necessary credentails. We changed the LAN IP to the appropriate network and moved it into the lab. We connected it to the pfSense NGfirewall’s WWAN ethernet interface. We plugged the USB power cable into an available USB slot. We saw it begin to come online.

We then accessed the pfSense NGFirewall to validate the configuration. The WWAN interface showed that it was connected and online.

We then attmempted to ping the ip address 8.8.8.8 from the laptop. We got a response. We had Intenet access. We performed a traceroute to the same IP to insure traffic was routing through the pfSense NGfirewall and out the mobile hotspot. The configuration was working correctly. We now had firewalled Internet access through the mobile hotspot. We were getting sub 4ms response time through the pfSense NGfirewall. We were also seeing better response time when visiting web pages than we had with the IOGEAR adapter.

The configuration was straight forward and easy. It connected to our mobile hotspot with minimal delay. Each time we disconnected and reconnected the mobile Wi-Fi network on the hotspot it reconnected almost immediatly. We acheived Internet speeds consistent with our hotspot plan. Overall we were happy with the TP-Link Wi-Fi to Ethernet bridge. It was as advertised and at a more realistic price point than Netgears unrealistic price tag.

TP-Link AC750 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router Product Page.

Conclusions

None of the bridges we tested had support for WPA3. While we acknowledge that WPA3 is a relatively new wireless serurity protocol we feel that a modern Wi-Fi to Ethernet bridge must have WPA3 support. Due to the lack of WPA3 support Cyber Defense Contractors cannot make a recommendation.

We would like to hear from some of our viewers about their experiences with their Wi-Fi to Ethernet bridge adapters.

Rob Cluett
More than 27 years of experience as a motivated IP Network Engineer in the Telecommunications, Information Technology Services, Plastics, Consumer Goods, and Cybersecurity industries. Expansive technical skill set and knowledge of mainstream and leading edge technologies to deliver a broad range of business enhancing technical solutions. Results driven with a focus on continuous improvement and IT process automation.
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