One of the unique features about the Librem 5 is its modular cellular modem and WiFi/Bluetooth cards. This not only aids in repairing hardware, it also means when new, compatible cards become available (or previous cards unavailable), we have the flexibility to change modules.
There were a few reasons for changing WiFi cards, but one of the primary ones was the lack of mainline driver support. Maintaining an out of tree vendor driver is a difficult task for a small team.
The brcmfmac driver wasn’t in perfect condition when we started shipping the cards. The two main issues we had were:
By default the brcmfmac driver disabled the REMOVABLE property of the SparkLAN card so this patch fixed issue #1.
The hotspot was fixed by Sebastian with this patch to NetworkManager
Moving to the SparkLAN card presented another other challenge because the driver loads firmware when the module loads and we can’t ship firmware with PureOS. We decided to create a firmware jail to put the firmware in.
The firmware jail is a region in NOR flash that is read only from the kernel. We flash the jail during phone production and it gets loaded into
/lib/firmware/ by the initramfs. This way, the firmware shows up in the rootfs, while allowing PureOS to stay pure.
Should users want to use a newer firmware any files copied into
/lib/firmware will override what is in the firmware jail.
|Mainline Driver||Yes - brcmfmac||Not working - rsi 1|
|Wifi Version||WiFi 6||WiFi 5|
|Wifi Throughput MAX||200 Mbps||50 Mbps|
|Wifi Throughput typical||120 Mbps||30 Mbps|
|BlueTooth version||Bluetooth 5||Bluetooth 5|
|Suspend support||Yes||Partial 2|
|AP support||Yes 3||Yes|
|BLE support||Yes||No 4|
|Firmware||Loaded at boot||In flash or loaded at boot|
1 Since being acquired by Silabs it looks like the driver might be maintained again.
2 Card uses 0.65 W while suspended
3 With recent NetworkManager
4 Redpine documentation claims it works but empirical testing indicates otherwise.
Another advantage to the modular WiFi card is that existing Librem 5 customers who have the original Redpine card have the option to upgrade. We are now offering the SparkLAN card for sale in our shop in case you want to upgrade the Redpine module in your Librem 5.
(Made in USA)
|Librem Mini||In Stock|
|Librem 5||In Stock|
(Made in USA Electronics)
|Librem 11||In Stock|
|Librem 14||New Orders Shipping in October|
|Librem Server||In Stock|