Creating a Community owned Mesh network with
Linksys WRT56G routers

The Linksys WRT54G router can be used to create an ad hoc wireless network, Because of it'sd use of an Open Source Linux operating system, it can be customized and adapted as an Access Point (AP) to provide an inexpensive solution. Of course such a home device does not have the robustness of an industrialized commercial solution, but for the cost it's an interesting solution. Because of this low cost it could be considered to create a free metropolitain network. This is what is presented here.

This could be used to provide free internet
and ip phones in Montreal...

I just need to setup enough of these...


What is a MeSH Network

Mesh networking is a way to route data, voice and instructions between nodes. It allows for continuous connections and reconfiguration around broken or blocked paths by “hopping” from node to node until the destination is reached. A mesh network whose nodes are all connected to each other is a fully connected network. Mesh networks differ from other networks in that the component parts can all connect to each other via multiple hops, and they generally are not mobile. Mesh networks can be seen as one type of ad hoc network. Mobile ad-hoc networking (MANet), and mesh networking are therefore closely related, but mobile ad hoc networks also have to deal with the problems introduced by the mobility of the nodes.

Mesh networks are self-healing: the network can still operate even when a node breaks down or a connection goes bad. As a result, a very reliable network is formed. This concept is applicable to wireless networks, wired networks, and software interaction.

Source: WiKiPedia

Setup Mesh

Step 1: Configure the routers

Configure the routers (at least 3) as described above.

Use the Range calculator to determine power requirements.

Step 2: Document

  • On all routers put a sticker with the ID (IP address + SSID)
  • Make a list of ID's together with the Wireless LAN (WLAN) MAC addresses
  • Get a map of the area in which the mesh will be created

Ste 3: Mount the routers

Mount all routers to buildings in the area and note the location and ID on the map. Take the following into account when deciding where to place routers:

  • the building/room should have a need for wired internet connection. note that wireless connection will be anyway available throughout the mesh area. Hubs and together with CAT-5 cable can extend the wired connectivity in the building. 
  • the building/room should not be to far from the nearest router in the mesh to ensure good link quality,
  • the building/room should not be to near to the nearest router in the mesh to prevent excessive interference between the routers
  • the routers should not be placed near equipment as air conditioners and micro ovens. Metal objects in the construction should be avoided, windows are nice for propagation!  

Step 4: Check configuration

Once mounted, check the configuration of all routers, ensure that all settings are correct, and modify were required.

  • use a laptop with wireless card and a web browser to log into the DD-WRT configuration of the router. 

  • Set your IP address and subnet manually if the router has not yet a connection to the DHCP server. Otherwise, leave it on "obtain automatically".

  • Perform a  scan with your wireless card, connect to the SSID in question and type the IP address of the router in your web browser. You might want to use ipconfig in the cmd windows and ping the router to check the connection.

  • verify that the password has been set correctly

  • verify that the IP address matches the SSID and the LinkNet ID and verify that the WLAN MAC address corresponds to that one on your list.

  • verify that connection type is set to disable, STP is enabled, that DHCP type is set to DHCP forwarder, and that the firewall is disabled.

  • disable the option lazy wds in de WDS configuration. As this was enabled by default, we have to make sure this is manually disabled on all routers!

  • optionally, you may want to configure the disabled WAN port as a fifth LAN port for extra wired pc's.

Step 5: Assign neighbour

While logged in on the router, assign the neighbors for each mesh router by setting the WLAN MAC addresses in the WDS configuration.

  • With the help of your map you can find the neighbors for each router. Choose 3-4 buildings directly next to the building in question.

  • Verify that the router can actually receive the chosen neighbors by clicking  site survey  in the wireless tab under status. The results from site survey should be leading!

  • Enter the WLAN MAC address for every neighbor in the WDS tab and set disabled to LAN. Entering the ID (e.g. 2.30) in the field directly after the MAC address is very useful for later tweaking and troubleshooting!

Step 6: Check connectivity

Check the connectivity in your mesh by connecting to the internet from all routers, see if you get a IP address from the DHCP server and see if you can browse.  Check the performance e.g. by pinging your gateway (more advanced methods giving you insight in the routes in your mesh is still to be found).


Flashing the firmware

Flashing the firmware is a simple process and only take a few minutes. It is done through a Web browser open to the router’s LAN address (Usually Linksys routers are protected by a login whose default is a blank username with the password admin.
  1. Connect your PC with the .bin file to the router via an Ethernet cable. Do not try to flash the firmware through a wireless link, which could be unstable and lead to a brick.
  2. Reset your router’s current firmware to factory defaults. You can do this through the current firmware’s configuration pages – Administration/Factory Defaults/Yes/Save Settings. As an alternative, you can physically reset the factory defaults by pressing and holding the reset button on the back of the router for 30 seconds.
  3. Now you can flash the new firmware. Connect to the router’s configuration pages with your browser, and navigate to Administration/Firmware Upgrade. Open the browse dialog to select your .bin firmware file.

  1. Once you start the firmware upgrade – do nothing and wait for the process to complete. 
  2. After about a minute you will see the upgrade progress bar complete. The router will now reset itself, and assuming everything worked, you’ll see a new page with a button marked Continue.
  3. Wait at least two more minutes before clicking the Continue button. Sometimes the router presents the continue screen before it has truly cleaned up from its upgrade.
  4. Click Continue. You should be forwarded to the main configuration page for your router.

Firmware versions

The Firmware tracker can be used to identify what is available for the router version you have. An expert is presented below:

3rd Party Firmware

DD-WRT [website]
Earthlink (IPv6) [website]
Portless Networks eWRT [website]
Freifunk [website]
FreeWRT [website]
HyperWRT [website]
OpenWRT [website]
Rupan [website] - HyperWRT update
Sveasoft [website]
Tarifa [website]
Thibor [website] - HyperWRT update
tinyPEAP [website]
Tomato [website]
Tofu [website] - HyperWRT update
WiFi-Box [website]


Determine the hardware revision

Linksys has released several hardware revisions of the WRT54G. It is important to select the right firmware update for the router version. The WRT54G router version can be determined from its serial number as per the chart available below. The serial number is printed on the outside of the device.

Linksys WRT54G v1.0 to 2.2

Feature WRT54G v1.0 WRT54G v1.1 WRT54G v2.0 WRT54G v2.2
Protocols 802.11b/g, 802.3/u 802.11b/g, 802.3/u 802.11b/g, 802.3/u 802.11b/g, 802.3/u
Serial No CDF1xxx CDF2xxx-CDF3xxx CDF5xxx CDF7xxx

Linksys WRT54G v3.0 to 5.0

  WRT54G v3.0 WRT54G v3.1 WRT54G v4.0 WRT54G v5.0
Protocols 802.11b/g, 802.3/u 802.11b/g, 802.3/u 802.11b/g, 802.3/u 802.11b/g, 802.3/u
Serial No CDF8xxx CDF9xxx CDFAxxx CDFBxxx

Linksys WRT54GS v1.0 to 2.1

Feature WRT54GS v1.0 WRT54GS v1.1 WRT54GS v2.0 WRT54GS v2.1
Protocols 802.11b/g + Speedbooster, 802.3/u 802.11b/g + Speedbooster, 802.3/u 802.11b/g + Speedbooster, 802.3/u 802.11b/g + Speedbooster, 802.3/u
Serial No CGN0xxx-CGN1xxx CGN2xxx CGN3xxx CGN4xxx

Linksys WRT54GS v3.0 to 5.0

Feature WRT54GS v3.0 WRT54GS v4.0 WRT54GS v5.0
Protocols 802.11b/g + Speedbooster, 802.3/u 802.11b/g + Speedbooster, 802.3/u 802.11b/g + Speedbooster, 802.3/u
Serial No CGN5xxx CGN6xxx CGN7xxxx


If the firmware flash failed

If something has happened and the router did not come back to life, your router may be bricked, which is somewhat like being dead with the possibility of resurrection.

WAP54G - Reset Taster

Try to reset the router to factory defaults by pressing and holding the reset button on its rear for 30 seconds. When and if it relights, try to connect to it with your browser. There are several more tricks you can try to recovering from a bad flash, as described on the WRT54G Revival Guide.


M.rijken (2006) Step-by-step procedure for implementation of the mesh network

Weiss, A. (2005), The Open Source WRT54G Story,


©Marc-Andre Leger, dimanche, 23 décembre 2007 12:26:53 -0500