OpenWrt, renowned in the network technology sphere, is an open-source initiative focused on Linux-based embedded operating systems. It’s predominantly utilized in embedded devices such as Wi-Fi routers for managing and directing network traffic.
Given the immense popularity of the project among home users, it’s natural to wonder why such brilliant software hasn’t ventured into offering its hardware platform. This question, which I’ve often pondered, has finally found its eagerly awaited answer!
As the project marks its 20th anniversary, the open-source router software community is taking a bold step forward. In a recent announcement on the developers’ mailing list, the project unveiled plans to launch “OpenWrt One/AP-24,” its first fully upstream-supported hardware design, embodying two decades of expertise and community spirit.
OpenWrt One at a Glance
The design philosophy of the new device focuses on simplicity and feasibility, with features essential for all OpenWrt-supported platforms. These include following a KiSS concept with multiple recovery options, easy system console access, and onboarding RTC with battery backup.
- SOC: MediaTek MT7981B
- Wi-Fi: MediaTek MT7976C, offering robust dual-band support
- Memory: 1 GiB DDR4 RAM, 128 MiB SPI NAND + 4 MiB SPI NOR flash
- Connectivity: Includes 2.5 GbE and 1 GbE Ethernet ports, USB 2.0, and an M.2 slot for NVMe SSDs
- Recovery and Expansion: Features buttons, a mechanical switch for boot selection, LEDs, an external hardware watchdog, and mikroBUS expansion slots
- Additional Features: JTAG for the main SOC, MMCX antenna connectors, and a USB-PD-12V power supply option
Designed to be affordable, the OpenWrt One aims for a price below $100. The hardware schematics will be publicly available, ensuring transparency and community involvement.
The dual flash chips design aims to make the device nearly unbrickable and easily recoverable. The NOR flash, write-protected by default, holds a recovery bootloader. The M.2 slot supports NVMe storage, with ongoing work to enable PCIe booting from the U-Boot bootloader.
The absence of USB 3 is due to SoC limitations, while the USB-C console port simplifies communication with the device. OpenWrt also plans to register an OUI block for the device, enhancing its networking capabilities.
Distribution and Compliance
OpenWrt has partnered with the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) and Banana Pi (BPi) for distribution. Each sale will contribute to an SFC-earmarked fund, supporting OpenWrt’s hosting and potential future summits. The SFC will also ensure proper trademark use and GPL/LGPL compliance.
Lastly, it’s important to note that the proposed device is currently just a concept, and the path to making it a reality is still being determined. Nevertheless, all signs point to its eventual realization. At this time, OpenWRT has not committed to a specific timeline for this initiative.
Visit the announcement for more detailed information about OpenWrt One/AP-24.