Connecting TL-WR720N to E3000 through WDS

Discussion in 'Tomato Firmware' started by Oleg Repin, May 16, 2013.

  1. Oleg Repin

    Oleg Repin Networkin' Nut Member

    In short, it works. There are some tricks in the configuration, but since you use it, everything works just fine.

    TP-LINK TL-WR720N V1 (European model) is a small 150 Mbps wireless router, 2.4 GHz B/G/N. The most attractive is the presence of two Ethernet LAN ports and its small power consumption, 0.8-1.5 Watts on AC side. Its $15 price in local store also adds to its allure. It is based on Atheros AR9331 chip. The TL-WR720N V1 is not supported by DD-WRT clones, so we stuck to the stock firmware.

    Also I was pleasantly surprised by the TP-LINK customer support. I was in contact with them during my experiments and they honestly tried to tell me something useful. Despite the fact that TL-WR720N is already discontinued.

    My LinkSys E3000 is based on Broadcom BCM4718A1 chip and it runs on v1.28.7494 MIPSR2-Toastman-RT K26 USB VPN firmware.

    DD-WRT message on this subject is less than encouraging: "WDS between different chip vendors (atheros, broadcom, ralink) will not work most of the time since it's INCOMPATIBLE and no we will NOT fix it." Toastman's opinion was also gloomy: "WDS doesn't work so well these days, it seems rather less reliable and is prone to disconnections." However, DD-WRT gave us a chance: "multi-vendor WDS interoperability is possible." So, I decided to give it a try.

    STEP 1. Configure E3000 to enable WDS

    Enter Basic/Network configuration page of your E3000 router.


    Wireless Mode should be set to Access Point + WDS. As a Channel should be selected some fixed channel. You could use Scan button to look for less crowded one. WPA Personal/AES security setting was recommended in other posts and it works in my case. I did not try to change it. WDS link should be set to Automatic, otherwise my TL-WR720N LAN clients hang during the connection.

    Channel Width 20 MHz tenfold increased my TL-WR720N wireless throughput over 40 MHz. The throughput increase was also mentioned in other posts on this subject. May be your numbers will be different, you could play with it later.

    If you did not do it yet, take note of your LAN Router IP Address, LAN Subnet Mask, LAN IP Address Range, Wireless (2.4 GHz) SSID and Wireless (2.4 GHz) Shared Key. You will need them for your TL-WR720N configuration.

    Press Save button. After that I checked my wireless clients connection state. They barely noticed the changes.

    STEP 2. Configure TL-WR720N

    Download 23.11.2012 TL-WR720N firmware from TP-LINK website and Unzip it.

    Turn on power of your TL-WR720N. If it is not just out of the box, press Reset button of the TL-WR720N for more than 5 seconds to reset its settings to default.

    Disconnect you PC from your local network and connect it to a LAN port of the TL-WR720N.

    By default, TL-WR720N IP address is, subnet mask and DHCP is on. If IP configuration of your computer is set to Obtain an IP address automatically (DHCP client), your computer IP will automatically reconfigure. You could try to reboot your computer connected to TL-WR720N router in the case of problems.

    Type URL into your browser. Windows Security window should appear. Enter admin in both User name and Password fields of the window and press OK button.

    Enter Maintenance/System Tools/Firmware Upgrade page. Select your downloaded TL-WR720N_V1_121123.bin file and press Upgrade button. Wait while your router reloaded.

    Enter Basic Settings/Wireless/Wireless Settings page.


    Set Channel to the same value as in your E3000 Wireless (2.4 GHz) Channel configuration. Set Enable WDS. Press Survey button, find your E3000 Wireless (2.4 GHz) SSID and press Connect in the list. Select Key type to WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK. Type the same Password as E3000 Wireless (2.4 GHz) Shared Key. Press Save button but do not reboot your router yet.

    Enter Basic Settings/Network/WAN configuration page. Changing WAN settings (as well as STEP 3) is optional. But leaving WAN Connection Type as Dynamic IP (DHCP client) slows down TL-WR720N to E3000 connection. It also is not clear if other revisions of E3000 firmware will properly work with these settings unchanged.


    The only significant value to be set is Static IP as WAN Connection Type. I guess that other fields affect nothing. Nevertheless we try to set it to some reasonable values. Set IP Address to some value inside IP Private Address Space, but outside E3000 LAN subnet. Set Subnet Mask to be outside E3000 LAN subnet. Set Default Gateway to the same value as IP Address. Set Primary DNS to the same value as E3000 LAN Router IP Address. Press Save button but do not reboot your router.

    Enter Advanced Settings/DHCP/DHCP Settings configuration page. Set Disable to DHCP Server and press Save. Do not reboot your router.

    The following step is not mentioned in TP-LINK's document "How to configure WDS function on TP-LINK Routers". If you reboot your TL-WR720N router at this moment, you will have no way to access TL-WR720N configuration but to reset its settings to default. They also did not mention that Channel value should be set to the fixed number. I do not know if TP-LINK software can work without the following settings or the documentation is just incomplete.

    Enter Basic Settings/Network/LAN configuration page.


    Set IP Address to some value inside E3000 LAN subnet, but outside its LAN IP Address Range. Set Subnet Mask to the same value as E3000 LAN Subnet Mask. Pressing Save button causes your router to reboot.

    At this moment your TL-WR720N should be connected to E3000 and be fully functional.

    STEP 3. Configure E3000 to assign IP to TL-WR720N (optional)

    It looks like Tomato E3000 software properly redirects queries to TL-WR720N despite the fact TL-WR720N IP address is unassigned. Just to be on safe side we fix it.

    Enter Status/Device List page of your E3000 router.


    The last line of the list is my TL-WR720N router. You could check its MAC Address against Wireless MAC Address of the Status page of your TL-WR720N. Press [static] entry just below MAC Address of the TL-WR720N.


    Set IP Address to the same value as TL-WR720N LAN IP Address. Check Bound to checkbox. Hostname field is optional. Press Add and then Save buttons.

    You may check that IP Address is properly assigned to the TL-WR720N at Status/Device List page of your E3000 router.


    My TL-WR720N works just fine for a week. Its connection to E3000 is restored faultlessly despite my numerous attempts to destroy it during my experiments. No problems with Internet connection either. Internet transfer speed from LAN ports of the TL-WR720N is 32.5 Mbps down/36 Mbps up (95 Mbps down/80 Mbps up on my E3000). It well correlates with wireless transfer rate between TL-WR720N and E3000 (see Status/Device List picture above).

    The TL-WR720N WAN port can be pinged but dead in all other respects. If somebody has an idea how to revive it, please let me know.
  2. WhiZZ

    WhiZZ Addicted to LI Member

    Thanks for the tutorial. I have similar configuration with E3000 Tomato + Stock TP-Link. This works fine.

    However I just found out this kind of config is not a "true WDS". It's client bridge/repeater bridge.

    Tomato says the TP link router is connected to interface "eth0", eth0 is the interface for ordinary wireless client. WDS node normally resides on wds0.x where x is the n-th number of WDS node.

    You could simply set your tomato in "AP mode" and the TP-link would still be able to connect.

    Both WDS and client bridge work about the same in simple network. However if you use anything that relay on MAC address, then it will potentially stop working.

    So far I've been only able to use WEP+WDS between E3000 Tomato and Tp-link with DD-WRT.
    Is this simply hardware interoperability limitation as stated in DD-WRT wiki, or did I get something wrong?
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
  3. Oleg Repin

    Oleg Repin Networkin' Nut Member

    > I just found out this kind of config is not a "true WDS". It's client bridge/repeater bridge.
    I do not know this subject in enough details, to confirm or reject your idea. But in my case by indirect attributes I suppose that it is WDS. I believe bridge/repeater mode provides the full bandwidth while I saw it drops in half, indicating WDS. May be your TP-Link firmware works other way.
    > I've been only able to use WEP+WDS between E3000 Tomato and Tp-link with DD-WRT
    It is possible DD-WRT limitation. Did you try to use TP-Link stock firmware?
  4. WhiZZ

    WhiZZ Addicted to LI Member

    Oleg, thanks for replying. :)

    WDS halves your bandwidth, that's for sure. Unless you use it on dual band router, one band to communicate with WDS AP and one band to communicate with wireless client.

    Please kindly correct me if I'm wrong, WDS is true transparent bridge (Layer 2 OSI) it passes both IP address and MAC address from any client. That's not the case with client bridge (Layer 3), while it passes your IP address, it proxies your MAC address. (in our case all wireless device behind TP-Link will have TP link MAC address.)

    This thread discusses client bridge vs WDS quite in depth

    post #466 contains easy way to test whether true transparent layer 2 bridge is used, based on MAC.
    If you don't mind, can you please share if your configurations is really transparent WDS bridge? i.e. based on looking on MAC address listed in ARP list?

    I have tried both Stock and DD Wrt on my TP link (it's WR-841N v8 btw) with limited success.
    In the stock FW there are two WDS mode, Auto, WDS1 & WDS2. From what I understand WDS1 is the true layer 2 WDS, while WDS2
    is universal repeater (client bridge). I can confirm WDS1 doesn't work at all with when combined with E3000 Tomato (With or without encryption) while Auto and WDS2 works fine.

    Both WDS1 & WDS2 works and seen by Tomato as if ordinary wireless client is connected. (on eth0)

    On DD-WRT, WDS works fine with no auth or WEP. Tomato shows client wds0.1 connected. I can access my subnet and internet just fine from any device behind the TP-link, with each respective real MAC address listed on ARP.
    Client bridge also works., and more or less indicate similar performance with WDS2 mode on stock TP-link FW.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
  5. Oleg Repin

    Oleg Repin Networkin' Nut Member

    I respectfully disagree with the author you point to. I believe the major difference between WDS and bridge/repeater mode is data flow protocol. Protocol implementations are quite different and you could tune it to pass MAC address while leave data flow the same. That is why throughput evaluation is more significant to me than MAC address transparency. But, answering your question, yes, MAC address of my TP-Link bridge is the same as E3000's.
    My TP-Link firmware does not provide me such a variety as yours. Sorry, I can be little help here. Considering WDS1 mode, did you try to repeat the same configuration sequence as I described in my tutorial? Actually it matters. I spend some time to figure out how to make it work.
  6. WhiZZ

    WhiZZ Addicted to LI Member

    I'm by no means a network specialist, so I just wonder why didn't anyone tune it that way, if it is possible.

    I just selected WDS1 while following your tutorial right to the dot, except for the SSID name & MAC address of course. Restarted both routers
    It works in client bridge mode. (Tp-link is connected to eth0, MAC address is translated/proxied for device behind TP-link) I must have set it up incorrectly last time I tried.

    So I can confirm the TP-link works in client bridge (no MAC transparency) both in WDS1 & WDS2 mode. Therefore now I'm not so sure whether I understood difference between WDS1 & WDS2 correctly.

    I stand corrected.

    I have simple network, so this is also the case for me.

    Then from what I understand it supposed to be a client bridge.. or to be specific layer 3 bridging.

    Few things I found out, YMMV:
    1. No need to do any kind of changes on Tomato side, set it normally as AP
    2. No need to set static IPs on TP-Link, Dynamics works just fine, since clients will get gateway address from E3000's DHCP, IP traffic will go through E3000 WAN directly.
    3. While TP-link called it's implementation as WDS, I believe it's not the true transparent layer 2 bridge WDS. In fact this is commonly called client bridge (i.e layer 3 bridging).
    4. I haven't really done any throughput benchmark but when the router and/or wireless devices are within 2 meters or so I'm getting full 300Mbps rate on E3000 <-> TP-Link AND TP-Link <-> wireless client. On DD-WRt with similar setup I can get 300mbps on E3000 <-> TP-Link (DD wrt) but only 144Mbps on TP-Link (dd-wrt) <-> wireless client (Virtual AP SSID). I already used 40Mhz channel width. Those rates are as seen in Tomato device list and Wireless connection properties on Windows.
    5. TP-Link stock firmware, aside from claiming full 300mbps rate, also appears to be more stable than DD-wrt based on a few days use. Dd-wrt lost connection several times, requires reboot.
    All in all, In most case I don't need MAC transparency (when I need it I'll connect to the main AP directly).

    Your tutorial is a good start, and it works. It works wonderfully, in fact. :) Thanks Oleg.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
  7. Oleg Repin

    Oleg Repin Networkin' Nut Member

    > No need to set static IPs on TP-Link, Dynamics works just fine
    It works fine in my case too. But I found out it takes several seconds to establish E3000<-> TP-Link connection if leave TP-Link WAN as dynamic. While it is not a problem in the most cases, in highly congested environment (like mine) it could cause less reliable connection.
    > I already used 40Mhz channel width
    Unfortunately it does not work in my case. Probably because of different TP-Link models or more clean wireless environment.
    > Thanks Oleg
    You are very welcome.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2013
  8. Shovon_5

    Shovon_5 Reformed Router Member


    I just wanted to get clear about something. Are we talking about just extending the WIFI network so we can connect more devices wirelessly? Or are we converting a wireless signal to ethernet over CAT5/6 using the TL-WR720N.. I need to do the latter but not sure if its possible with the TP. Thanks..
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