Wireless to Wired Connection for multiple devices?
February 12, 2015 5:15 AM   Subscribe

My business has a remote office that has a terribly slow DSL connection. A mobile hotspot there can provide a much faster internet connection. Is there a wireless ethernet bridge that will support multiple devices?

We have an office that has 3 computers, a networked printer, and a networked timeclock that employees use to clock in & out. The internet DSL connection there is slow (how slow - it rates "0 Mbps" most of the time!) We have tested hotspots from our cell carrier and get decent speeds from them. USB based wireless adapters seem to be the ticket for the desktop computers, but the printer and the timeclock only accept standard ethernet connections. Is there a wireless ethernet bridge that supports multiple devices, or will I have to connect one to each device I want to use on the wireless connection?
posted by dukes909 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You may want to get a cellular capable router instead of trying to bridge a wireless hotspot to wired. I would assume it would be simpler to setup/more reliable.

I see that there are options from at least Netgear: LTE Gateways who has gsm & verizon models and other brands sell similar items: DLink DWR-921

(i'd be concerned with how much data you are using, since cellular connections have very low data caps per month).
posted by TheAdamist at 5:29 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't think of a reason why a wifi extender + basic router wouldn't work. I also know it's possible to set up wireless routers to function as repeaters, which (in theory) could hook up via Ethernet. I've never done the second option, but I use a wifi extender with Ethernet cable at home.
posted by royalsong at 5:31 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

@TheAdamist: re: data caps, we have an unlimited option on the hotspots.
posted by dukes909 at 5:52 AM on February 12, 2015

@royalsong: I'm lost about using the extender - what would be the path? Cellular->Hotspot->WiFi Extender->(wired)->Timeclock? What would the router be for?
posted by dukes909 at 6:05 AM on February 12, 2015

Cellular -> Hotspot -> WiFi Extender -> Router -> Time Clock and Printer

The router is so you can split the wired connection coming from the extender into two. The ethernet from the extender would go in the "in" port on the router and ports 1 and 2 would go to the time clock and printer.
posted by royalsong at 6:35 AM on February 12, 2015

Ah - got it
posted by dukes909 at 6:37 AM on February 12, 2015

ah I'm using the wrong terminology. By basic router, I mean desktop switch.
posted by royalsong at 6:40 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not very difficult if you're comfortable mucking around with a bunch of esoteric settings in a router. The simplest way would be to get a cheap DD-WRT compatible router and look up how to use it as a wireless bridge. You don't HAVE to use a custom router firmware like DD-WRT but it makes finding guides a lot easier since it is largely uniform across all devices.

I've done this very thing except with work wifi instead of a cellular hotspot.
posted by Willie0248 at 6:59 AM on February 12, 2015

I have experience with a Cradlepoint MBR95 router. You plug the USB hotspot device directly into the router, and the router then broadcasts a wireless signal. You can also plug network cables directly into the back of the router (so this would work for your time-clock and printer that require wired connections).

The Cradlepoint router was super-easy to set up. It pretty much just works out of the box, although there is a web-based control panel that you can access from a browser if you want to change any settings. My advice is to stay away from repeaters, extenders, bridges, DD-WRT-based routers, etc. Those options will work, but unless you're an IT geek, you may find the set-up daunting. The Cradlepoint is simple.

Upon edit: I'm assuming that your hotspot is a USB device, or that you can get one from your carrier. If you don't have one or can't get one, then the Cradlepoint may not be the best option for you.
posted by alex1965 at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used the setup described by royalsong to maintain remote access over 6 machines deployed in an environment without access to wired internet for the past 18 months. It worked, but we ran into a few hitches. First, the ethernet->wifi bridge we initially used to connect to the wifi hotspot was janky and failure-prone. This may not be a problem for you if there is a technically-savvy user available to kick things when they break. For my use case, since the system had to run without end-user intervention, we ended up running Windows Internet Connection Sharing on one of the machines, effectively turning it into another router. So our setup ran as follows: Hotspot =(wifi)=> desktop with ICS =(ethernet)=> router =(wifi + ethernet for LAN and WLAN) => lots of devices.

It was mostly stable, though we had to have a field tech reset things a few times throughout the year.

Alex1965's plan sounds MUCH less nerve-wracking. Do note that even if hotspots claim to be USB devices, they may not function properly and it appears to be at the mercy of the carrier, but I'm unclear. We had a Verizon-branded Novatel Jetpack 5510L hotspot that offered USB connectivity. Our initial system used prepaid data to evaluate the approach (and we tethered the hotspot to the ICS computer in the way Alex1965 describes). After upgrading to a regular VZW contract, which required a different JetPack unit, USB connectivity stopped working for us. VZW tech support washed their hands of any responsibility, and I spent seriously days on the phone with Novatel without receiving a satisfactory resolution. If memory serves we went through two or three different devices and ended up using a USB wifi dongle on the ICS machine to connect to the hotspot. So many failure points, but it hung together remarkably well.
posted by Alterscape at 8:14 AM on February 12, 2015

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