- Discreet form factor
- Good performance
- DSL-over-LAN capability
- Good management software
- Can't connect external antennas
- Complex web configuration GUI
- Single (dual-band) radio
- Documentation needs tidying up
Born in 2002 out of the communications division of graphics specialist ELSA, Lancom is not particularly well known in the UK, but it has a large European client base in large enterprises and public institutions. Its latest L-320agn access point is intended for use in environments where a low-visibility solution is needed, with a minimum of breakable or removable external parts. An anti-theft wall mount kit costs an extra €39.50 (ex. VAT).
Based on an Atheros AR9280 802.11n controller, the L-320agn has a dual-band radio with the 2x2 MIMO antennas located inside the black and grey plastic casing. The network processor is a Freescale MPC8314E running at 399MHz with 64MB of DDR2 RAM, and powering a single rear-mounted Gigabit Ethernet port. The only other interface is a 5-pin DIN connector for a serial console (an adapter cable is supplied), which can also connect to a backup analogue or GSM modem via an optional adapter cable. Power is supplied by a small external adapter, but 802.3af power-over-Ethernet is also supported.
It’s unusual to find an access point with independent WAN connectivity, but the L-320agn can provide it via a direct connection to a DSL modem. It can also connect to one via a hub or switch, courtesy of Lancom's DSL-over-LAN (DSLoL) technology that allows both WAN and LAN traffic to use the single LAN port simultaneously. Combined with the integrated fully-featured router, policy-based SPI firewall and DHCP server this gives the L-320agn a surprising amount of flexibility in deployment. This is further enhanced by its ability to operate in managed mode controlled by one of Lancom's own wireless controllers. It can also be used in point-to-point mode to connect to up to six other access points, or in wireless client mode to operate as a simple wireless adapter.
The LANconfig tool has good context-sensitive help, but this isn't available in its web-based counterpart
The browser-based user interface isn't the most intuitive we've seen, but there are some basic setup wizards to help out. It's much simpler to use the excellent bundled LANtools software (comprising LANconfig, LANmonitor and WLANmonitor). There's a decent manual (albeit in a slightly tortured translation), plus good context-sensitive configuration help in the LANconfig tool, but sadly this isn't replicated in the web GUI. For out-of-band configuration, the LCOS operating system is accessed via the serial configuration port. For safety when upgrading firmware, two copies are stored to allow instant rollback.
Up to eight independent SSIDs can be created, although as the L-320agn is not a dual-radio device all of them will use either 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi bands. Dual-stream 802.11n operation means that 300Mbps link speeds are supported. In informal tests (using Passmark Performance Test) in a noisy domestic environment we found it to be easily capable of sustained real near-field data throughput of 50-60Mbps, and over 15Mbps at 25m range through several brick walls. For comparison, we ran the same tests using a mid-range consumer 802.11n router (a Fritz!Box WLAN 7270), which returned similar near-field figures but could only manage less than 5Mbps throughput at 25m. Antenna gain and transmission power on the L-320agn can be adjusted in the configurator, but there are no connectors for external antennas.
The Lancom L-320agn is an expensive product, but it would suit installations in public places or institutions where you don't want antennas advertising it presence to the world. It also offers outstanding flexibility, which should appeal to a broad range of enterprise users.