ZyXEL N4100 Wireless Hotspot Gateway review
ZyXEL provides everything you need to set up a managed 802.11n hotspot
Review Date: 26 Aug 2010
Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell
Price when reviewed: £603 (£709 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
ZyXEL proudly claims its new N4100 appliance as the world's first 802.11n solution dedicated to providing high-speed hotspot and public access services.
Designed to sit behind an existing firewall, the N4100 comes with a thermal printer that links up with the appliance to automate Internet access account creation and billing. The printer has an Ethernet port so can be physically located anywhere as long as it's on the same subnet as the appliance. The printer isn't essential; you can use the appliance's web interface, but it does simplify account creation. The web interface provides a wizard to help set up internet access, wireless AP plus printer and assign account values to each button.
Any client on the LAN or wireless network that loads a web browser gets redirected to a login portal where they enter the details on the ticket, which also includes the wireless SSID and encryption key. Ticket details can be personalised along with the location and content of the login portal. You can decide how long an account is valid for and opt to have one-time internet access or allow time to be accumulated.
Security is tight, as no access is permitted between all LAN ports and wireless users and this can't be modified. However, you can define shared LAN resources by their IP and MAC addresses and create a pass-through table that allows specified IP addresses unrestricted internet access.
For authentication you can use the appliance's local database, which has up to 512 entries, add a RADIUS server or redirect users to a portal with an acceptable usage agreement. The appliance supports 100 concurrent users, although you can double this for around £260.
Internet bandwidth management can be enforced where you provide upstream and downstream speeds, which are applied at the MAC address so all users receive equal treatment. The appliance provides decent levels of reporting with a list of active accounts plus their status and remaining time.
A complete log of all active and used accounts is provided and you can keep an eye on
logged-in users and disconnect them if you wish. The only information provided on user activity is a session list showing the remote IP addresses being visited.
Along with a range of billing options, you can customise the login portal with information about your business. There's also an option to display up to 10 advertisement URLs so you could sell space on your portal to other companies.
The N4100 offers a simple solution for providing managed and chargeable wireless hotspot services. The printer makes account creation simple, so the complete kit reviewed here is reasonably priced and worth considering.
Author: Dave Mitchell
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