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 3Com Home Wireless Gateway

Page 2 

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 2/21/2001


Wireless Features


The HWG's wireless features are similar to those of other wireless routers.  You can set the Channel number, Wireless LAN Service Area (ESSID), as you would expect.  In the 40bit WEP encryption setup, you can enter up to 4 Hexadecimal keys and select the one that the HWG will use.

3COM Home Wireless Gateway - Encryption Screen

As is common among inexpensive wireless routers, the HWG completely lacks wireless network monitoring capabilities.  You have no way of knowing:

  • How many clients are using the network

  • the MAC or IP address of clients

  • the state (active, roaming, etc.) of clients

  • Network statistics (error rate, packets sent/received, etc.)

You also can't control which wireless clients can access your AP, but you can use the "Client Privileges" feature to block Internet access to the fixed set of services.

 

Wireless throughput


I used netIQ's free QCheck utility to check the HWG's wireless speed.  Tests were done using a 3COM AirConnect PC card as the wireless client, and a Windows PC as the other LAN client.  Both clients are on the LAN side of the router, so these tests do not include the router. Here are the results:

(Tests run with:
 - WEP encryption DISABLED
- Tx Rate: Automatic
- Power Save disabled)
[Ver 1.3d AP firmware]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

Qcheck Response Time (msec)

[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

AP to Client - Condition 1

4.7

3 (avg)
4 (max)

499

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 2

4.8

3 (avg)
4 (max)

499

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 3

4.0

5 (avg)
68 (max)

467

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 4

3.1

5 (avg)
31 (max)

386

0.0%

(Details of how we tested can be found here.) 

I also checked Transfer rate with 40bit WEP enabled for Condition 1 and found between 0.7 to 1.0Mbps decrease in throughput.

Comment: The HWG's range was similar to other 802.11b products I've tested.  The antenna is built into a circuit board attached to the inside top of the HWG and is cabled to the radio card (which is not a stock 3Com AirConnect card), but this didn't seem to work any magic for range.  The cabled connection does mean, however, that you could attach a range booster antenna to the HWG, although 3Com doesn't support this.

 

Router Throughput


I also used Qcheck to test the HWG router's speed:

[Tests run with Ver 1.1 firmware]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

WAN-LAN

2.8
[see Note]

 

Not tested

 

LAN-WAN

2.1

< 8

Not tested

 

(Details of how we tested can be found here.) 

NOTE: Since Qcheck uses ports that usually need to be forwarded through the Router Under Test's firewall, I couldn't perform my normal suite of WAN-LAN tests, or the LAN-WAN UDP streaming tests.  I obtained the WAN-LAN transfer rate via the HTTP download test method described on this page.

These results show that the HWG's router is slower than most of the current generation of routers, but fast enough for most Broadband connections.

 

Wrapping it up


I think the HWG is a work in progress.  Although 3Com says they concentrated on implementing a feature set that would satisfy a large portion of their target market of novice networkers, I think they fell a little short.  The biggest omission in the product's initial release is the lack of user programmable port mapping/forwarding.  With interests in on-line gaming, VoIP, and other similar applications, many router users quickly find that they need to start messing with their firewall. 3Com hasn't given users even a "DMZ" option as a work-around for applications that don't have built-in "handlers".

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