OpenWRT Mesh - which router

I have been reading about mesh networks and come to the conclusion that it might be worth trying tro create a mesh network at home. It would simplify my setup and hopefully eliminate the weak/dead spots we currently have.

I was considering to purchase some GL.iNet 1300 units but then started to wonder what would be the difference between those and buying, say, a group of BT Hub 5/PlusNet Hub one routers which can be had cheap on eBay and at least have external antennas which should provide a better signal?

I appreciate that I will have to configure the BT Hub 5 routers myself and I am up for that, but is there any performance difference or gotchas?

get a triple radio device, like

Linksys MR8300 / EA8300
Asus Lyra MAP-AC2200

or you'll be capped by the 802.11n radio.


Thanks for that. I have not idea from the specs whether the GL.Inet GLS-1300 is a three or two radio device but it was being sold as a mesh router. Will I need Ethernet backhaul with this? What bothers me a bit is that it is now discontinued, although it can still be found on Amazon. I have been offered some used units.

The above options are rather more expensive (compared to BT Hub 5), but I might be open to considering them if necessary. I wasn't aware of WiFi 6 until recently, so does three radio units mean they have 2.5, 5 and 6 Ghz radios?

That's pretty vague, and not really uniqe, since most routers can be made into mesh nodes, at least those using openwrt :wink:

Nope, one of the 5GHz radios will be used as uplink, the other two for retransmitting.
If you have ethernet backhaul, you can use pretty much any router supported by openwrt.
But then you don't need mesh, just roaming.

I'd try eBay.

Probably still one 2.4GHz, and two 5GHz, but AX capable.

Sorry, that's down to my lack of familiarity and partly the reason for my questions. Is the reason a router is classed as a "mesh router" because it has a particular hardware capability or because its running a mesh capable OS such as OpenWrt?

To quote:

Convexa-S is equipped with Qualcomm Wi-Fi SON (Self-Organizing Network) mesh technology to deliver robust and consistent connectivity to your entire home.

On the other hand, if I can install OpenWrt on BT Hub 5s which can be had for less than a tenner, then why bother with more expensive routers? That was really the questions I had in mind. Its not clear to me from the description in any of the below links what makes it a "mesh router":

The Hub 5 also has ac1300 WiFi so superficially at least, the hardware seems to have a similar capability except that the Hub 5 has less memory. I had also seen a thread on here where someone got a mesh of Hub 5's working so its evidently possible.

"AX capable" is a new term that I have not come across yet. I can see from a bit of Googling that WiFi6 and 802.11ax appear to be synonymous and that ax supercedes ac, so ax appears to the the next generation of WiFi. I am therefore guessing that "AX capable" means it is capable being upgraded with AX supporting firmeware? Those GL iNet devices appear to be ac devices as are ones you mention above, but its clear that the above are definitely tri-band (2.4GHz + 2 x 5GHz).

I guess I can also aske the question, is having two or three radios synonymous with dual-band or tri-band? I had always related the latter to actual frequency ranges supported rather than the number of hardware radios implemented.

other brands/models (all based on openwrt one way or the other) to it too, but you can can't usually combine the feature cross brand, or on worst case not even cross model.
AIMesh from ASUS would be the only exception I'm aware of.

they you'll be capped by the slowest of the two radios, if one is used for receiving, the other for retransmitting.

they have a mesh specific feature in the firmware.

I'm not saying it's bad, just old, and (depending on your requirements) slow.

If you're OK with two radios, and only one ethernet port, look at the
DAP-X1860 or COVR-X1860, they've been as lot as 15€, new.

Thanks for the clarifications. One of the drawbacks of the GL iNet GL S1300 is that it only has two Ethernet ports. It could be supplemented with a switch, but then why not a router with 4 ports which some of the other models do offer. In May 2024 I will have to change ISP and might consider something like the Vodafone Pro II offering, so the purchase of the GL Inet units was going to be kind of an interim and experimental measure until I saw that they were discontinued. Then I also saw the post about the Hub 5's.

On the other hand there is an argument for planning ahead and buying up-to-date AX capable hardware, including that having 6Ghz capability. Yet 6Ghz units do seem to have eye-watering prices, especially those from Netgear. Then again, one is buying not just one, but several router units so I guess it all adds up.

I could spend maybe 40-70GBP on Hub5s (or a bit more on the GL iNet routers) just to experiment and familiarize with OpenWRT mesh technology, or put that money towards modern hardware. That's the dilema I am currently wrestling with.

Doesn't say anything to me.

Get some like, unkillable x86 router.
Got old wifi, but will route 1gbit easily, and an excellent test box. Seems there's no power supply though.

You can get a set of three ZyXel WSM20 routers for £70 on either Ebuyer or Amazon

They are basic devices (CPU) but have AX on 5GHz and 2.4GHz, plenty of RAM and lots of flash. The OEM firmware is awful, but they run beautifully on OpenWRT and would give you a decent mesh system for very little cost. Your speed would be limited by the 2.4 GHz, but if your internet uplink is 100Mbps or lower you are unlikely to notice. Also, if you can wire any of them in with Ethernet or power line then the whole thing will really fly.

There are faster solutions out there if you have more to spend, but it will be quite a lot more cost before you find anything noticeably better available in the UK.


Vodafone Pro II:

Seems they offer broadband with some kind of mesh router technology. No doubt commercial proprietary. Remains to be seen, I guess, whether it will ever run OpenWrt.


Was going to say ZyXel are awful and slooowww, and their support was awful at the time I had one, but that was a long time ago and, as you say, using OEM firmware. Didn't realise some models could run OpenWRT. Thanks for your suggestion. Another one to look at and it seems they are on something of a promotion at the moment. They seem to be current and certainly more up-to-date than the GL iNet SL1300.

Not many, but the WSM20 (Multy M1) is a fairly standard MediaTek setup which therefore has very good support in OpenWrt. It’s available in the latest release candidates as well as SNAPSHOT and can therefore just about be considered stable. There are plenty of satisfied users on the forum.

Absolutely. A 3 pack is considerably cheaper than a two pack!

The MT7621 is definitely current (dual core) and widely used, but not cutting edge. The MT7915 radio is very much up to date and gives AX WiFi on both frequency bands, which is better than many routers at 2-3 times the price.

Thanks. I already have a wire between two of the locations and can probably get a wire between to the remaining one. I would probably be happier purchasing these at 70ish GBP than the discontinued solution. Just one more question though: does the USB port work with OpenWRT? Apparently it is "reserved for future use" in the Zyxel firmware.

I’m not aware of there being a physical USB port on the WSM20 (mine doesn’t have one). If there is then it should work. There’s a lot of flash storage to work with if you want to install extra packages.

Maybe some quick clarifications/definitions will help...

Many people confuse mesh and roaming.

  • Roaming is the behavior of a client device (sta mode) transitioning from one AP to another. This does not require mesh (but obviously does work with a mesh system) -- it is simply about the client ideally connecting to the AP that has the best signal strength based on the client's location and environmental conditions.

  • Mesh is defined by the use of a wireless backhaul between APs (typically in conjunction with some other tech/standards that are intended to make it 'smart' and higher performance than other 'extender' type setups). A dedicated radio (i.e. 3 or more radios) that connects the mesh nodes together is important for performance reasons, but is not technically required (the tradeoff is obviously dramatically reduced performance). If you're using mesh, it means that you don't need to run ethernet between the APs -- typically one will be wired, and the rest will be wireless.

With mesh, no, you do not need ethernet backhaul. However, if ethernet connections to the remote APs is an option, it is almost always preferred because it will have better performance and predcitability.

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But Ethernet backbone is not uncommon in mesh (adhoc or 802.1s) networks either.
Mesh routing protocols like batman-adv and Babel are actually designed to support these mixed modes.
And yes the marketing guys screwed up the wording and terminology so badly so as of today everyone gets confused. :confused:

This point is worth emphasising as wired is so much better than wireless. The predictable low latency and (usually) zero packet loss of a wired link means that in most cases "wireless speeds" need to be ~10x faster to be worth using in preference. For example I find a reported 866 Mbps wireless connection to be no better than 100Mbps ethernet in actual use.


You are quite right. I have been trying to find where I saw that, but couldn't find it again. Maybe I pulled up a thread about another Zyxel model without realising. I had hoped to be able to use at least one of the USB ports for shared storage.

Regarding the back-haul, that does make sense. If it is being carried over WiFi, then it is sharing the same radio and bandwidth that is being used for servicing either 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz clients which is bound to affect performance. Where three radios are present, then the third radio can be used for carrying back-haul and likewise when connected with Ethernet, the wire is used, which takes the pressure off the radio servicing the clients on each frequency band.

Are any of the Zyxel triple radio routers supported by OpenWrt?
AFAIKT it looks unlikely, but just wanted to make sure.

I don't know of any other good ZyXel options with newish hardware and a similar price point. As for triple radio, if you have any possibility of running wired backhaul instead of wireless then you won't regret doing it. It will be much better, even compared to a dedicated backhaul radio.

I found a triple pack of Zyxel WSM20's for 49GBP including postage and at that price (about £16 per router) could not resist to buy and experiment. I can always upgrade later if need be. They should arrive Tue/Wed of the coming week.