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TP Link is a well-known brand in the networking space and has a wide range of wireless access points in its portfolio. The TL-WA501G is a one such wireless range extender designed to operate in 2.4G Hz range. It comes with many impressive features making it an ideal fit for deploying wireless LANs in enterprises. With remote management option, this device is easy to install as well as manage which is essential for wide scale deployments.

Wireless Specifications: The TL-WA501G is designed to support 802.11g standards. In this mode, the device can support maximum speeds of up to 54 Mbps although depending on the interference and other environmental conditions it can scale down the speeds to ensure reliable traffic flow. The device is also backward compatible with 802.11b standard which allows older devices to connect to the wireless network. This is very useful in enterprises looking to migrate or upgrade the networks. The device adopts 2x to 3x eXtended Range solution which is a TP Link trademark for enhanced range in the 802.11g standard. With this extended range solution, the device can increase its coverage area by as much as 4 to 9 times which is pretty significant.

Wireless Security: The TL-WA501G device is designed to support state of the art wireless security solutions. For a secured wireless LAN, it supports WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) standards. It supports 64-bit, 128-bit and 152 bit keys for WEP encryption. In the WPA encryption, it provides WPA, WPA2, WPA-PSK and WPA2-PSK authentication delivering a highly secured wireless network apt for enterprise grade deployments.  It supports advanced encryption solutions which are essential when large wireless networks are built and maintained.

The device supports MAC address filtering which ensures that unauthorized devices do not gain access to the wireless network. It also supports disabling the SSID broadcast which prevents wireless clients without the knowledge of the network from trying to access it.

Wireless Operation Modes: TL-WA501G can operate in multiple wireless modes to aid in wireless network deployment. Given below are the five modes of operation supported by this access point.

  1. Access Point: In this mode, TL-WA501G acts as a wireless hub providing a connection point for all the wireless devices within its range to the enterprise network. The access point connects to the network through the LAN port over Ethernet.
  2. Wireless Client: In this mode, the access point itself becomes a client looking for connection to the enterprise network. Typically, this mode is used to connect wired Ethernet devices to the rest of the network over the wireless LAN.
  3. Repeater: In this mode, the access point acts as a repeater enhancing the reach and range of another (root) access point. As a repeater, TL-WA501G does not support any of the typical functions associated with it – it is merely a range extender. The other root AP (which could be another TL-WA501G configured in one of the other modes) would be handling all the access point functions.
  4. Point to Point Bridge (PtP): In this mode, the device acts a bridge between different LAN segments. Typically this mode is used to connect LANs when direct cabling becomes very expensive. In PtP mode, the device can connect to only one other access point.
  5. Point to Multipoint Bridge (PtMP): In this mode, the device acts pretty much like the PtP mode, except that as a multipoint bridge it can connect to more than one access point. The other access points can be in PtP or PtMP modes.

While supporting these various operating modes, the device also supports DHCP server functionality. If configured accordingly, the device can assign local IP addresses to connecting devices.

Device Management: The TL-WA501G offers a wide range of management functions. It supports web based management, wherein the device configuration setup menus can be accessed from the web browser by directly connecting to it. Alternately, it also supports remote management which is typically the most preferred option for medium and large scale deployment of these access points. The device also supports traffic statistics which are critical part of any network management functionality.

Accessing Configuration Menu: The simplest means of configuring the TL-WA501G is through the web browser. The steps below describe how this is done.

  1. Power up the access point and connect it to a computer.
  2. The factory default IP setting of the device is 192.168.1.1. Hence the computer needs to be configured with an IP address in the same subnet say 192.168.1.251
  3. In the computer browser type the following URL – http://192.168.1.251/
  4. For the login credentials enter the username and password as admin
  5. This will launch the status screen for the access point giving a summary of its current configuration.
  6. By navigating to different menu items various aspects like the wireless aspects, operating modes, wireless security, network details, DHCP server settings, etc., can be edited.