I am new to OpenWRT installed on the WRT series of Linksys.
I once bought a WRT 32X a while ago, over the time struggling a lot with WIFI packet losses on the stock firmware (some threads on the internet confirmed these packet loss issues, recommended going to OpenWRT), which brought me to switch to OpenWRT. I actually even bought the device at that time, having in mind that there is a large community backing the future of the device.
OpenWRT mostly fixed the packet drops on first sight, but OpenWRT has shown some heavy WiFi restrictions that seem hardware-related.
It took me some days of research, to hunt down the overall OpenWRT WiFi status of the 32X. I would like to try to summarize it and ask for feedback from you guys, if my summary is correct. The following is subjective summary/impression of me. I had a bit of hard time following up in a lot of discussion threads. Please correct me, if my assumptions or impressions regarding the WRT routers collected here are incorrect.
So there are WiFi restrictions affecting Linksys WRT 1900/3200/32X, but not WRT 1200. The 1200 does not seem affected merely because the 1200 is no longer sold and the WRT device WiFi restrictions seemed to have been introduced somewhat around 2017, around the same time when the 1200 went out of stock.
Subvariants of WRT 1900/3200/32X routers seem to exist:
- From my understanding at least for the 1900 and 3200 there seem to be variants available ("old" and "new" versions), which seem to differ that the newer versions (since ~2017??) have a regulatory-locked-down WIFI firmware chip, which is the main reason for the current WiFi restriction problems.
- It seems like the 32X exists only as WiFi regulatory-locked-down edition.
- According to my browsing on lots of GITHUB threads and this forum, also regional variants of the 3 routers seem to exist, where the Wifi chip is prelocked-down to certain regionals (e.g. US or EU). And this seems not due to a regional specific WIFI Firmware blob, but due to a lock-down implemented in the WiFi hardware?
- 32X seems to be the same hardware as the newer variant of 3200, with just a different case color and different partition layout and different initial vendor firmware and a different initial price tag.
The WRT3200 and WRT32X have a third radio, this 3rd radio can be set to either WiFi n or WiFI AC. The 1900 does not seem to have that third radio. The 3rd radio seems to have a 10-device-connection-limit and has only a single antenna (1x1), while radio 0 (5GHz) is 3x3 MIMO and radio 1 (2.4 Ghz) is 2x2 MIMO.
- The primary radios 0 and 1 of all three (1900, 3200, 32X) is a 88W8964, which relies on driver "mwlwifi"
- The secondary radio 2 chip on 3200 and on 32X is a 88W8887 and uses driver "mwifiex"
The radio 2 (88W8887) firmware is not that much locked down/crippled, but misses a practical MIMO antenna design, so its just useful as a secondary WiFi.
The main WiFi chip 88W8964 firmware is crippled down heavily, basically preventing a lot of WiFi things, like setting a WiFi country code or configuring certain power settings, even if certain settings would be regulatory-allowed in your country. In the end, this is due to WiFi chip and WiFi firmware restrictions, that ignores most attempts of OpenWRT, to set several custom settings. The device WiFi will ignore that and instead use pre-encoded hardware defaults.
My tests are based on the current OpenWRT version 19.07.7.
Currently it does not seem possible to change or view the correct WiFI region via LUCI GUI on any of the three routers.
You can change the WiFi country code in LUCI, but afterwards "iw reg get" on the SSH command line will still always show "FR" on EU-variants and "US" on US-variants of the router (no idea what other world-wide hardware variant exist and will show). The routers sold in Europe all seem to be locked to country code "FR".
On the EU(FR) variants, the "iw reg show" on command line will always show "98" for the global region on the W32X, while the radios 0 and 1 show "FR". Radio 2 country can actually be adapted individually.
On the WRT3200, it seems like "global" changes to the contry code as the 3 radios, when radio 2 is manually set to the same region code as radios 0 and 1.
Radio 2 on 3200 and 32X (radio 2 being the "third" radio with the 1x1 antenna and 10 device limit) can be freely changed to any region, but this needs a custom command. You cannot use LUCI for that: Instead use command line:
echo "mwifiex reg_alpha2=FR" > /etc/modules.d/mwifiex
(This setting is said to survive reboots and shutdowns, but is currently not in sync with the LUCI GUI settings or the "uci" command line)
If you switch country code of radio 2 (the only one with a customizable country code) to a different country (different from the hard-coded country of radio 0 and 1), the lowest common limitation denominator of the two country settings is said to apply to all radios. So since radio 0 and 1 are hard-locked to a specific country like FR or US (depending on the regional hardware variant you purchased initially), you may need to basically set radio 2 to the same region of radio 0 and 1, to not even further botch down your device on top of the already mandatory WiFi regulatory restrictions of radio 0 and 1.
My own experiments so far with the radio 2 on WRT32X(EU variant with FR country code) showed that several WiFi settings are not possible to be set on radio 2, even though OpenWRT 19.07.7 offers them as choice:
- WiFi n with 2.4 GhZ seems not to have any issues running on radio 2.
- But several WiFi AC-channels do not seem to work on radio 2. A channel that did work successfully for me was channel 44.
- I was unable to fire up radio 2 with a channel width of 80 MHz. 40 MHz did work though for radio 2.
- since LUCI country is not in sync with the real country code of the WiFi chip, I cannot set several maximum transmit power settings offered in LUCI GUI.
If radio 2 does not start up, I basically check the log file via SSH "logread", to find out clues which LUCI setting might have prevented the radio 2 start up and try to vary the settings.
Furthermore "WMM mode" on radio 0 and 1 is said to have issues with certain WiFi client device chips (ESP8266). Disabling "WMM Mode" is said to fix some of these problems.
Radio 2 is not having those issues with ESP8266-based client devices.
Furthermore some threads teasered hints that some radio 0 WiFi channel width variants available in "uci" command line are not shown in LUCI GUI. And some of these combinations of WiFi channel (?), width (?) and encryption cipher (?) seem to prevent Linksys WRT radio 0 (5Hgz AC) from starting up on all of 1900, 3200 and 32X. Several owners of 3200 and 32X have pointed out in threads, that radio 0 may not start up and for some that in the end, a lot of try attempts of switching of country code and channel width and channel, combined with reboots in some cases helped firing up radio 0 (the primary 5 GHz AC radio).
I also had some radio 0 issues. For me, several of the following attempts on the command line got my radio 0 up and running:
wifi up radio1
(my issues were not due to delays of DFS search, I was waiting for 2h before starting to mess with the command line)
Several threads showed that developers are unhappily trying to contact Linksys and the WiFi chip vendor for better open source WiFi support, as originally advertised by the vendor. This being just recent contact attempt activities of early year 2021. So far a dead end. Even unaccepted GIT pull requests are said exist.
Even an unanswered petition exist, to get better vendor support for the dead end device WiFi issues: https://community.linksys.com/t5/Wireless-Routers/Petition-Linksys-WRT-routers/td-p/1438469
so my conclusion is:
The Linksys WRT series 1900/3220/32X has noticable and for some disappointing WiFi restrictions under OpenWRT. Better check these WiFi restrictions first before buying, if the previous mentioned restrictions and the lack of WiFi vendor support bothers you or not.
So again, the previous is just a summary attempt, of what I have understood so far. Please feel free to respond, to correct wrong assumptions or summaries of me.
I think that may help not just me, but others as well, to get a comprehensive summary of what to expect from the WiFi of these WRT devices.
My post is not meant to provide bad talk about the 3 devices, but to be informed better, what the WRT WiFi can do and what it cannot do.
some (not all) of the threads I scavanged for this summary: