Suggestion for M.2 Key E wifi card. AP mode is required

Hi everybody,

I am new here and I would like some market insights from the experts.

I am trying to replace my trustee linksys WRT 1200AC that has collapsed after 7 years of service. I tried the serial interface and while I was able to talk a bit with at first it is not anymore.

So I bought a nanopi R5C which mistakenly took for granted that it comes with a wifi card. Well it doesn't.

So I am looking for a M.2 Key E wifi cards 22x30mm that can work in AP mode.

Any suggestion is welcome.

Here are my thoughts after half a day of research.

  • Several cards are out of the question because they work only in client mode.
  • Intel cards are out of the question since they do not support AP mode in the 5GHz
  • People seem to suggest Ath10k cards but I wasn't able to find many instances of M.2 Key E cards to buy
  1. I want to query about NXP 88W8997 (Marvel?). Is it well supported in openwrt? AP Mode. I saw some somewhat scary issues right and left. My linksys had a previous marvel chip. So how bad can it be?

  2. What about the variants? A card I found that I can purchase is ST60-2230C but it comes in may variants.

    Card WiFI / Bluetooth

  • ST60-2230C SDIO / UART
  • ST60-2230C-P PCIE / SERIAL
  • ST60-2230C-SS SDIO / SDIO
  • ST60-2230C-PU PCIE / USB <---------------- I am thinking this one
  • ST60-2230C-UU USB / USB
  • ST60-2230C-U USB / SERIAL

Does anybody has experience with any of the variants? Which one is best in terms of support, stability and performance?

Thanks a lot.

AFAIK Mediatek and Qualcomm are your only options.

I wouldn't trust Marvell wifi receiving proper Linux support from the vendor.

It's better to get a 2nd hand router off eBay, to use as AP.

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Thanks for the tips.

I see what you mean about the e-bay. I am navigating the hellish landscape os small factor wifi Access points cards. It is very difficult to search these things. They do no list specifications and dimensions very clearly unless NGFF is unambiguously 2230, but I am not sure of that. I can't tell if they have sufficient range or the required power profile.

Unfortunately now I purchased the R5C and I would like to make it work if possible.

What about usb dongles that can act as Access points? The nanopi product page suggests usb dongles to act as AP. Most chipsets are realtek which is a big no-no there is also one Mediatek MT7662. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a product based on it. The closest match was CF-WU785AC which is MT7612 based

So will something like that work as an AP? We are talking about ~80m^2 or ~861sq.ft flat and max 10-12 devices (probably 3-4 connected concurrently)?

This is what I found out about the M.2 E keys, but looks like a deadlock. Anyway I am putting it here in case somebody else can save some of his time...

Use it as a wired router and get a device designed by some manufacturer as a wifi ap. The manufacturers get a lot of support from the chipset makers etc to make sure their hardware works, the antennas work etc.

Ebay or buy something like a TP-Link EAP access points. You will get better performance assuredly.

This is I so what I didn't want to hear. I would prefer a magical / hackish solution...

But you are probably right of course and thank you for the honesty. Buying a wifi-router that supports openwrt proved to be overly expensive or difficult to purchase or both, at least for me. In 2016 I managed to get the linksys wrt 1200AC for ~160eur. Now this budget was out of question...

nanopi R5C looked like I a good solution but I was tricked on the wifi support. I lost a full day to figure out the market situation of the supported cards that are capable of AP mode.

I will purchase an AP. But it is one more little machine with cables and power plugs and everything. Maybe even one more machine to put openwrt?


It's actually a better solution technologically. "all in one" is a serious compromise. Typically the good physical location to put an antenna/radio is not a good location to put the ISP internet cable/fiber coming into your house. Also, you want your router to have a lot of CPU but typically APs don't need a lot of CPU. The nanopi is a good device spec-wise for routing packets and doing queue management / SQM, put an access point in a good centralized location to get good wifi, connect the two with an ethernet cable, and profit.

Also, when you need an upgrade to better wifi or to add another AP location, you just add it. if you try to all in one everything it is a very compromise scenario.

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So now I am in the market for an AP

In my case it is optimal to have the router and wifi at the same spot which is central and high at the house. Not sure that a ceiling mounted option will work for my case. My previous setup was ok and I will continue with that (put the AP in the same place).

So I am thinking TP-LINK TL-WA1201 (v2). It costs half the money of TP-LINK EAP225 and I believe that they have similar capabilities, same chipset family and 128/16 ram/flash both.

Any reasons that I might want to avoid the WA1201?

Guys thanks for the replies and the guidance so far. Really helpful.

It looks reasonable, and if you're not going to use Omada controller and have multiple APs then the EAP factory firmware isn't an advantage. Stick OpenWrt on the AP and you're good to go. the solution will probably be both cheaper and better than trying to find an M.2 card.

Ok I ordered it. I will report here what happened with both openwrt installations

Funnily Omada means team in Greek. I suppose sort of kind makes sense for a team of devices...

I received the devices and intstalled OpenWRT on them.

Just wanted to report that all is good hardware and OpenWRT compatibility wise.

I left the original friendlyElec firmware in nanopi R5C. It is OpenWRT 22.03.5 based (the latest).
Couldn't find suitable image to burn in the OpenWRT site. Looks like support for this little piece of hardware is very new. Hardware wise the board is impressive with 32GB ROM and 4GB RAM. Hands down the biggest OpenWRT installation I have ever seen.

I installed OpenWRT on the AP TP-Link TL-WA1201 v2 Everything is smooth. opkg update, upgrade etc. Although the 16MB of ROM are somewhat tight. I managed to install luci though.

Now I am trying to setup guest WiFi and let me tell you is not for the faint of hart. I already bricked the AP twice. Well, Not really bricked but it went to a state that I couldn't access it via ssh, http, wired or wifi but it was working as IP allowing connections. Go figure...

Guest WiFi wasn't that difficult in my previous setup where router, AP and switch was on the same device. Now it is more tricky.

Looks like the guides in the documentation assume that wifi is on the WAN port of the router?

In my case the router is in front of the WAP. Maybe VLANs is the solution but setting these things correctly are for the really brave...

To answer your original question, you could consider an MT7922 card (use opkg install kmod-mt7921e). These are available as M.2 E key cards (for around €15), and support AP mode for 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz. It's limited to 80 MHz bandwidth in AP mode tho'.

One of our vendors uses a Marvell-based solution that had module integration done by Laird. Not only is their shit not mainlined, Laird tries to charge people extra for features that are standard in hostapd. (Since hostapd/wpa_supplicant is BSD licensed, they can force their customers to use hacked-up and renamed wpa_supplicant with unknown modifications). As a result we routinely have weird wifi problems in aspects of operation that should "just work" (such as going out to lunch for 5-10 minutes if the AP they are connected to has a DFS event, instead of following the AP to its new channel and/or rescanning and reassociating with another AP) and do for nearly any other chipset, and that's just client mode only!!!

Stay away from them.

ST60 in the part number screams that it's a Laird Summit 60 to me, so it's the very same product that has been a massive headache for me at my day job.

I answered through gmail hoping that it will make it to the forum but no...

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the suggestion,

I already have bought the (alternative) hardware.

I considered MT7922 but this post Need advice - MT7915 or MT7922 for AP - #5 by slh and the whole thread had discouraged me to pursue that direction.

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Thanks for the insight and sorry for your headache... :slight_smile:

Recently I bought this, combined with this. My initial thought was to attach the chip to a M.2 slot on my x86_64 machine, but I eventually ended up using a PCI WiFi adapter.

OpenWrt runs as a VM in Proxmox with the PCI WiFi adapter mapped to the VM and managed by OpenWrt.

Everything works just perfectly - the WiFi card is detected/handled by the kmod-mt7921e driver. The only drawback is that this card does not support 2.4GHz/5Ghz simultaneously.

That's interesting, I hadn't tried the MT7921K, and haven't been able to find much information on the differences between the MT7922 and the MT7921K.

Have you been able to set up a 6GHz access point with the 7921K, and will it support multiple BSS (i.e. more than one SSID)? I wasn't able to have multiple BSS on a MT7922 with OpenWRT v22.03, I suspect it may be a hardware or firmware limitation, but I haven't tried snapshot, or mainline kernel. I can setup a 6GHz AP, but I don't haven't been able to join it from Intel AX210 clients (however this might be an Intel driver / regulatory region issue - Intel seems to be exceptionally conservative with regulatory compliance). Unfortunately I don't currently have another 6GHz client to test with.

Unfortunately, I don't have any 6GHz clients to conduct the test :frowning:

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