Test Drive: ORiNOCO Broadband Gateway 2000

By Wayne Kawamoto

Agere Systems’ dual Ethernet port/802.11b-based ORiNOCO Broadband Gateway 2000 (BG-2000) offers an easy way to set up and manage a wireless network in homes and small offices, and the system’s built-in security, which consists of advanced WEP encryption and a firewall, offers solid protection.

The BG-2000 is an Internet gateway that shares broadband Internet access via cable, xDSL or ISDN to networks of desktop and laptop computers, servers, and peripherals, and, of course, it provides wireless LAN connectivity. To accomplish this, the device supports Network Address Translation (NAT), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE) and Virtual Private Networking (VPN). With its two 10/100 Base-T Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi radio, the device simultaneously supports wireless and wired stations and effectively works as a bridge.

Physically, the sleek, wedge-shaped BG-2000 stands about as high as a PC speaker (about eight inches), and is approximately an inch wide. The device sports LEDs that clearly indicate whether it’s getting power and is successfully attached to a broadband Internet connection and LAN.

The device does a good job of hiding cable connections with a removable panel on the back that you reattach after connecting cables. While cables do run out of the back of the unit, you don’t see the unattractive ports and adapters. A base lets the device stand up, unobtrusively, on a desk or shelf-or with the included screws, you can mount it on a wall, which will make it look like a protruding shark fin.

In the evaluation, I found the BG-2000 to be easy to set up and configure. The device’s LEDs, which correspond to its WAN and LAN connections, immediately indicated successful connections to my DSL modem and wired PC. To help make wired connections, the device comes with color-coded cables and clear instructions in its “First Step” manual, which makes the process almost foolproof. The manual also does a good job of explaining what you will need to know to configure the device, particularly such items as ISP settings.

Users can configure the BG-2000 through a standard Web browser. After making wired connections, I simply entered the default URL specified in the manual, and immediately connected with the BG-2000 to configure user name and password; Internet connection (IP address, etc.); and security options.

The unit offered a wizard that stepped me through the process and presented the necessary options. Once again, the manual did an admirable job of presenting the necessary steps for our particular setup, as well as accommodating and explaining other configurations. After connecting the cables and configuring the BG-2000, I was immediately connected to the Internet through the ADSL line. While the “First Step” manual was well written and helpful, the BG-2000 unfortunately provides the rest of the documentation on a CD, which isn’t as convenient to read.

Laptops may communicate wirelessly with the BG-2000 if they have embedded 802.11b (Wi-Fi certified) radios, or installed Orinoco’s PC World Cards, which operate at 2.4GHz and support data rates up to 11Mbps. The Gold version of the card I tested offers 128-bit security, while the Silver version offers 64-bit security.

My evaluation PC Card did not arrive with its CD-ROM that contains the necessary drivers and accompanying software. Instead, Agere provided a CD that held a bunch of cryptic zip files. Unfortunately, as a result, I was unable to test the final installation process, as an end-user would experience it.

I was able to install the PC Card without any problems. My test notebooks immediately sensed the Orinoco PC card and installed its drivers, once I figured which files to unzip from the CD (I was provided with no instructions). Based on this experience, I envision a relatively trouble-free installation for most notebooks.

Desktop computers may connect wirelessly to the BG-2000 by using an Orinoco USB client device, which like the PC Card, is available in both 64-bit and 128-bit security models. Agere also sells PCI and ISA adapters that let the ORiNOCO PC Cards work in desktop computers. For business setups, Orinoco offers its companion AP-200 Bridge that can consolidate company LANs without wires.

The BG-2000 incorporates a firewall, access control and full 128-bit RC4 encryption. Of note, the BG-2000 also comes with WEPplus, a proprietary security feature that works with Orinoco’s client adapters and is designed to defeat hacker tools such as the infamous AirSnort.

The BG-2000’s built-in firewall offers IP and packet filtering designed to block access from unknown users and static port forwarding that provide outside Internet access to internal Web and mail servers. Additionally, users may set up secure tunnels with multiple stations to support remote workers who rely on VPN pass-through (PPTP, L2TP and IP Sec). During testing, I saw no significant degradation in performance when using the security options.

After installing the PC card, I logged onto the Internet through my test DSL connection, which was served wirelessly through the BG-2000. I could immediately access the other PCs in the local area network to exchange files and access printers.

I obtained performance of around 2Mbps under ideal conditions, which is below the theoretical maximum of 5.5Mbps. To explain this, Agere said that my use of Windows 98 SE added overhead that significantly slowed down performance, and that a Unix-based or Windows 2000 LAN yields far faster results.

The BG-2000 performed well through the drywall in my test environment, and only noticed a drop-off in signal strength when I left the building’s interior (which was still within the device’s specified range for optimal performance). Ultimate performance will be determined by your office environment.

The product comes with a one-year warranty; however, the company provides free phone support via a toll-free line for only 30 days after the first call within the warranty period. After that, calls cost $25 each.

The BG-2000 is a solid, viable solution for homes and small offices that need an Internet gateway and access point. Those who want a good and comprehensive wireless system that is relatively easy to install and configure will find it here. Just don’t expect a speed demon.

Model Number: BG-2000 ($299 MSRP)

Pros: Good range; solid security; simple configuration/setup; range of supporting products

Cons: Slow throughput (blamed on Win98); only 30 days of phone support; main manual comes on CD

Reprinted from 80211-planet.com

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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