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Alpha Networks WMP-N06SA MiniPCI Wireless N Card

Here’s a quick look at one of the now surplus cards from my old networking system, a MiniPCI Wireless interface card.

Card Overview
Card Overview

This is an older generation card, one of the first with Wireless N support on 2.4GHz.

PCI Chipset
PCI Chipset

Network PHY & firmware EEPROM. Power supply stuff is over to the left.

RF Transceiver
RF Transceiver

Inside the shield is the RF Transceiver IC & it’s associated RF power amplifier ICs for each antenna. These power amplifiers are LX5511 types from Microsemi, with a maximum power output of +26dBm.

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Netgear FS108 Fast Ethernet Switch

During the replacement of the networking onboard nb Tanya Louise with gigabit, the main 8-port distribution switch was also changed. Here’s a quick teardown of the old one.

Netgear FS108
Netgear FS108

This has been quite a reliable switch for the internal networking on board, but the time has come to switch over to something a little faster. This switch will be getting repurposed for the slower devices on my network, such as the radiation monitor & the raspberry Pi systems.

Cover Removed
Cover Removed

Here’s the top removed from the switch. It’s a very simple construction, with a small power supply section & the main switch IC in the centre.

Main Switch IC
Main Switch IC

All the magic happens in this main IC, a Realtek RTL8309SB Fast Ethernet switch. This is a feature-packed IC, with support for VLAN tagging, but being in a small unmanaged switch the extra features aren’t used.

Power Supply
Power Supply

Main power supply is provided by a jelly bean MC34063 DC-DC converter, and an adjustable LM1117 linear regulator. Nothing much special here.

Ethernet Magnetics
Ethernet Magnetics

The only other parts are the magnetics for the ethernet interfaces, behind the ports themselves.

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Cisco EA6700 / Linksys AC1750 Router

Cisco EA6700
Cisco EA6700

Since the boat was still running it’s internal network on 10/100M speeds, an upgrade was decided on, the internal WiFi signal strength was also pretty poor further than a few feet from the NOC.

The new router is a Cisco/Linksys AC1750 model, with gigabit networking, and full 802.11ac 2.4/5GHz Wireless. This router also has a built in media server, print server, USB3 & USB2.

PCB Overview
PCB Overview

Teardown time! Here’s the router with the cover removed. Most of the fun stuff is hidden under the shields, but these aren’t fully soldered down & the covers are removable. The 6 antennas can be seen spaced around the edge of the housing, the main CPU is under the large heatsink upper centre. The radio power amplifier stages are underneath the shields, while the main RF transceivers are just outside the shields.

2.4GHz Transceiver
2.4GHz Transceiver

Wireless N is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331, this provides full dual-band 3×3 802.11n support. Being 3×3 it is actually 3 separate transceivers in a single package, to get much higher throughput rates of 600Mbit/s.

5GHz Transceiver
5GHz Transceiver

Wireless AC is provided by it’s sister IC, the BCM4360, with throughput speeds of 1.3Gbit/s. Both of these transceiver ICs connect back to the main CPU via PCI Express.

5GHz Power Amplifiers
5GHz Power Amplifiers

To get increased range, there are a trio of Skyworks SE5003L +23dBm 5GHz power amplifier ICs under the shield, along with the TX/RX switching & antenna matching networks. Heatsinking for these is provided by a sink screwed to the bottom side of the PCB. The outputs to the antennas can be seen at the top of the image.

2.4GHz Power Amplifiers
2.4GHz Power Amplifiers

The 2.4GHz section is fitted with a trio of Skyworks SE2605L +23dBm 2.4GHz power amplifiers, with a similar heatsink arrangement under the board. Unlike the 5GHz section, the 2.4GHz antenna feeds are soldered to the PCB here instead of using connectors.

Main CPU
Main CPU

The main CPU is a BCM4708 Communications Processor from Broadcom, as for the other Broadcom chips in this router, very little information is available unless under NDA, but I do know it’s a dual core ARM Cortex A9 running at 1GHz, with built in 5-port gigabit ethernet switch.

CPU RAM
CPU RAM

Working RAM for the processor is a Hynix H5TQ2G63DFA 256MB part.

More to come on the installation of the new networking, with it’s associated 4G mobile gateway connection system.

73s for now!