Converting Cisco Aironet 3702i’s From Lightweight To Autonomous Mode

If I had to bet, my house WiFi has better coverage and is more reliable than yours.
My house has coverage over an 800m2 area averaged out to -45dBm on 2.4ghz (a bit less on 5ghz) and it cost in 2023, $100. I will get to the details shortly.

A fancy 802.11ay (WiFi 6e) Access Point whilst it may be faster, is going to be not only considerably more expensive, and yes faster, but will not compete with the coverage and signal strength multiple enterprise access points will give. To achieve this level of coverage you would need to spend 30x more than what I have spent to get comparable 2.4ghz coverage.

There is excellent value in using EOL Enteprises IT equipment (Holistically) and one brand that comes to mind is Cisco. Excellent build quality, and because they are the defacto standard in many environments, when they go EOL, there is an oversupply of equipment, and prices plummet.

An example here is Cisco 3702 Aironet Access Points. The top of the range in Cisco’s offering. Brand new these Access Points were $1645.00 USD in April 2019, today they can be found for as little as $20AUD ($13.80 USD) without mounting brackets.

If you can make do with 450MBps (realistic), 1.3GBps (theoretical) then for 1/10th of the price of a Wifi 6E Router (Netgear NightHawk) you can build a network that will provide more consistent throughput over a wider coverage, and whilst you are at it, do your part for the environment and save some e-waste.

There is a catch. But if you found this blog, you already know this.

Cisco Aironet Access Points are typically coupled to Wireless Lan Controllers as they run in ‘Lightweight’ mode, meaning that they cannot act independently of a wireless LAN controller (WLC). The WLC manages the AP configurations and firmware. The APs are “zero touch” deployed, and individual configuration of APs is not necessary.

Imagine a building with hundreds of AP’s, you dont want to be configuring these manually.

The APs are also lightweight in the sense that they handle only real-time MAC functionality. The APs leave all the non-real-time MAC functionality to be processed by the WLC. This architecture is referred to as the “split MAC” architecture

Two options here.

  1. Acquire a Wirless Lan Controller – Second Hand off Ebay going from $80AUD – Cisco 5508
  2. Change the firmware from Lightweight to Autonomous mode.

In this post I am going to illustrate how to convert a Cisco Aironet Access Point from Lightweight to Autonoumous mode. I will be using a Cisco 3702i in this example but this will work with any Aironet based Access Point.

Step 1: Acquire Autonoumous Firmware

Step 2: Console Cable (FTDI)

Step 3: Setup a TFTP Server

Step 4 : Place Access Point In Recovery Mode

Step 5 : Format Flash

Step 6: Download Autonomous Image

Step 7 : Enable Webserver

Step 8 : Configure Device (SSH or GUI)

en

debug capwap con cli

boot manual

reload

format flash:

config t

set IP_ADDR 10.0.0.249

set NETMASK 255.255.255.0         [According to my network setup]

set DEFAULT_ROUTER 10.0.0.1    [According to my network setup]

tftp_init  

ether_init  

flash_init  

tar -xtract tftp://10.0.0.187/ap3g2-k9w7-tar.153-3.JH.tar flash:

dir flash:

set boot flash:/ap3g2-k9w7-tar.153-3.JH/ap3g2-k9w7-tar.153-3.JH

set

boot


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Spoiler – Want to see a demo? Click here

You may be wondering what Zwift is. Wikipedia best describes Zwift as.

Zwift allows players to ride their bicycles on stationary trainers while navigating through virtual worlds. Players may cycle freely around the game world and join organized group rides, races, or workouts with other users. Zwift uses ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy technologies to transmit data that, in combination with athlete weight and equipment choices, is used to convert the athlete’s efforts as speed and power. “Smart” trainers, which include a built-in power meter, permit accuracy in the measurement of watts as well as enabling an immersive technology experience, where resistance is applied or lessened to simulate the gradient encountered on the virtual course.

Zwift – Wikipedia

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