One of my home access points is TP-Link Archer C7. I purchased it to get all benefits of the 5Ghz 802.11ac standard for the laptop and 2.4Ghz band for the older devices. However, it was never working for me well:
- In 5Ghz band Apple devices were working very unstable
- Sometime i had to reboot router because of wifi stability issues. After reboot it was working until next issue. There are no debug options/logs in the native firmware.
- Device was spamming network with STP packets and some other data, no way to disable.
- After upgrading to the new firmware versions i had to reconfigure it completely. And in fact difference between regullary updated versions was minimal
- Native firmware configurable only via web interface, probably backdoors are included :)
So i decided to reflash it to the OpenWRT and found, that i am “happy” owner of the TP-Link Archer C7v1, with AR1A (v1) variant of QCA9880 chip, not supported in the open source ath10k driver. So there is no way to use 5Ghz with OpenWRT at all. Only good thing that 5Ghz chip is not soldered on the board, but connected to the PCIe mini card socket. So i decided to replace it.
- I been able to find on the eBay Compex WLE900VX Atheros QCA9880 card. It supports 802.11AC 1.3Gbps 3×3 MIMO 5ghz and is supported by ath10k driver.
- Before replacing WIFI card you should install OpenWRT or device wont boot at all. I used OpenWRT CC 15.05 for the Archer C7 V1.X, upgrade was done via web interface
- After OpenWRT is up and running – turn off device and replace WiFi card. Be careful with pigtails, it is very easy to damage them.
- OpenWRT recognized this card without any additional packages and now working well. You may also want to use alternate firmware from Candela Technologies, there are some reports that it works better then one from vendor.
- Hardware NAT is not supported. I am not using NAT on it, so i dont really care. Probably on speeds up to 300Mbit it does not matter.
- Device has only 8Mb of flash. It is enough for the OpenWRT installation (including Luci). There are also 2 USB2 ports, so its easy to extend storage size if needed.
So far everything works great. It is too early to say if stability issues are gone or not, but at least i am now able to do full debug and tuning if needed. I am planning to benchmark router later.