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Bridge versus Router Mode Differences, Advantages and Applications

Bridge versus Router Mode Differences, Advantages and Applications

White paper contributed by Sachin Gupta,
Technical Support Engineer at smartBridges

The new generation of intelligent Nexus products gives greater expandability to Wireless ISP (WISP) with the possibility of configuration in either router or bridge mode. Choosing the right operational mode is critical for a stable and correct installation of the wireless link as the applications related to each operational mode are different.

This discussion analyzes the differences between Bridge and Router modes of operation and provides the information needed for the WISP to deploy, configure and manage the right operational mode for a particular situation.

Bridges operate at the Data Link Layer (level 2) and do not understand anything about any communications protocol other than the physical medium (MAC), which is typically an Ethernet.

Routers operate at the Network Layer (level 3) and typically understand routed protocols, such as IP and IPX. Function wise, a router passes traffic between two logically separated networks whereas a bridge passes traffic between two networks which are logically the same.

"Logically" in this case refers to their IP numbering being in the same subnet for example the IP numbers and are within the same subnet (assuming class C with a mask) whereas and are in different subnets.

Selecting Bridge & Router operational Mode

The operational mode of the wireless device should be selected according to the requirements and applications. The table below gives a brief outline of the pros and cons of each operational mode.

Bridge Mode

Router Mode

  • Does not block any broadcast or multicast
  • Blocks and provide protection against broadcast storms
  • Transparent bridge and can pass Non-IP protocols
  • Only IP protocol is supported
  • PPPOE protocol Pass-through
  • No PPPOE protocol pass-through
  • Able to transport VLAN tagging
  • Doesn't supports VLAN
  • No network segmentation. One broadcast domain
  • Network segmentation (Clients can be on different IP subnet)
  • Can only relay the DHCP client's request to the external DHCP server
  • Can Act as DHCP server & relay which Prevents IP conflict & DHCP Injection
  • Bridges maintains bridging table (Mac) & STP can be used to avoid loops
  • No STP feature; maintains routing table

  • External bandwidth Controller can be used to control the speed of the clients by Mac or IP address
  • External bandwidth Controller can be used to control the speed of the clients by IP only
  • In client device, it uses MAC address to associate which requires WDS compatible AP
  • Use SSID to associate, work with any 802.11a/b/g AP

Bridge mode

  • Device will act as a transparent bridge and will operate in Layer 2 - Mac layer
  • Bridge mode association is based on channel and MAC authorization only. SSID will not be used for the setting up a link.
  • If the remote is configured in a bridge mode and channel needs to be changed then channel needs to be changed at both the radios.

Router mode

  • Device will operate in Layer 3 to perform routing. It is pure routing and network provider has to take care of proper routing as there is no NAT feature in airHaul.
  • Association is based on SSID.
  • Remote configured in a Router mode will automatically follow the Root Bridge for any change in channel. Due to this, Remote Router mode is preferred for selecting a channel with low interference for setting up a link in the beginning

The different possible modes of operation for the Nexus series are summarized as follows:

1. airHaul Nexus 2. airPoint Nexus 3. airClient Nexus

Root Bridge Mode

Remote Bridge Mode (WDS)

Remote Router Mode

airPoint Bridge

airClient Bridge (WDS)

airClient Router

airClient NAT

Typical Application Scenarios

The airHaul Nexus is a Long-Range multiband radio used in Near-Line-Of-Sight (NLOS) applications and offer an effective point-to-point solution for suburban and rural area coverage. With Intelligent Layer 3 routing and Spanning Tree Protocol, the airHaul Nexus helps in the deployment of robust and scalable networks. Network expansion is convenient with back to back connectivity (daisy chaining) of the airHaul Nexus with access points. Three possible scenarios involving the airHaul Nexus is described below.

1. Deployment as Bridge Mode

Bridge mode uses WDS (Wireless Distribution System) which is generally used for extending wireless range or bridging between two network segments wirelessly, for example, connecting two office buildings. In technical terms we say a bridge type connects a wireless network to a wired network transparently.

2. Bridge Mode as Cell Extender

One example of using airHaul Nexus in bridge mode is as a backhaul to extend the wireless link to the end users. The figure below shows how airHaul Nexus (sB3010) can be deployed in that way. End users (wireless clients) associate with the access point (sB3210) connected with the backhaul link.

3. Router Mode & Applications

A router connects two logically separated networks. The figure below shows a typical application scenario. In router mode the airHaul Nexus can be used as DHCP server for the remote LAN, joining two different networks as shown below.



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