Arduino Wi-Fi Access Alternative

By | 2013-01-17

For a while now, I’ve been trying to decide what wireless shield I wanted to standardize on my Arduino projects that required WiFi capability. I’ve been using the standard official wired Ethernet shield. Reading reviews and specs on the many and various wireless shields was a confusing mess or mixed reviews, different libraries and limited information. Not to mention too many variations to pick from. Then to add to the mix the Arduino founders released an official wireless shield which looked very impressive in it’s specs and capabilities, but it also might be the most expensive wireless shield of the lot.

I also noticed that some wireless shields appeared to lack some protocols I needed to use. Or at least they weren’t documented so I’d have to do my own usage trial and error, and possibly purchase more than one wireless shield before I found one I was satisfied with.

Even aside from the price issues and my difficulty picking a specific wireless shield, the thing that I found the most annoying was that it appeared I would have to rewrite the communication code and then re-test, after all the work I had already done on my project. I would have to write, test, and maintain, two sets of code for every project I wanted to create that was both wired and wireless.

I then saw an Arduino project post where someone used a tiny wireless router as a shield option. Not considering size constraints, I thought this was a fantastic alternative! One project code base, no extra testing other than plugging it in and it works or it doesn’t, and one time minimal setup of a nano router.

So I did my research, picked a tiny and easily available router, which turned out to be on sale at the time of my purchase for $22 with free shipping via My selection was the Edimax BR-6258n 150 Mbps Wireless Broadband Nano Router .

You simply set this (or any similar mini router) up in infrastructure mode or bridge mode, plug it in and you are done. The same setup could be used on any wired Ethernet device you wanted to make wireless. With the Edimax router, they use the infrastructure mode to accomplish what I am describing. I’ve noticed with some other mini routers, they use the terminology of selecting bridge mode. With Edimax, bridge mode is used when implementing a bridge between two routers. I’ve posted a link to an instructional PDF below.

Edimax WiFi Router as a Wireless Bridge:

The Edimax BR-6258n is very small, was easy to set up, and worked on the first try. It can be powered by a USB cable, or the included USB wall charger that is roughly the same size as the device itself, with prongs that fold flat into the case for storage or travel.

Price wise you’ll likely end up paying about the same for a wired shield and a nano router as you would a decent wireless shield. Size wise a nano router will be taking up a little more room in your project housing or be external. The big advantage I see is that your project can instantly be either wired or wireless, and with the same code base and IP settings.


Edimax BR-6258N Router
Shown in actual use on an Arduino project,
powered by Arduino’s USB port.

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