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Angus Ainslie

Angus Ainslie

Embedded Kernel Developer
Angus Ainslie

Latest posts by Angus Ainslie (see all)

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.

Wifi card

Up until December 2022 all Librem5 phones had been shipping with the Redpine RS9116 M.2 module. New Librem 5 Phones are now shipping with the SparkLAN WNFB-266AXI(BT).

SparkLAN WiFi Module
SparkLAN WiFi Module

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:

  1. The card would not come back after the hardware kill switch was toggled.
  2. Hotspot mode was not working.

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

Firmware Jail

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.

Comparison SparkLAN vs Redpine

Mainline DriverYes - brcmfmacNot working - rsi 1
Wifi VersionWiFi 6WiFi 5
Wifi Throughput MAX200 Mbps50 Mbps
Wifi Throughput typical 120 Mbps30 Mbps
BlueTooth versionBluetooth 5Bluetooth 5
Suspend supportYesPartial 2
AP supportYes 3Yes
BLE supportYesNo 4
FirmwareLoaded at bootIn 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.


Upgrade Your Librem 5 WiFi

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.

Purism Products and Availability Chart

 ModelStatusLead Time 
USB Security Token Purism Librem KeyLibrem Key

(Made in USA)
In Stock
10 business days
Librem 5In Stock
10 business days
Librem 5 + SIMple
(4 GB Data)
In Stock
10 business days
Librem 5 + SIMple Plus
(10 GB Data)
In Stock
10 business days
Librem 5 + AweSIM
(Unlimited Data)
In Stock
10 business days
Librem 11In Stock
10 business days
Most Secure Laptop Purism Librem 14Librem 14In Stock
10 business days
Most Secure PC Purism Librem Mini
Librem MiniApr 2024
Shipping April, 2024
Purism Liberty Phone with Made in USA ElectronicsLiberty Phone
(Made in USA Electronics)
Apr 2024
Shipping April, 2024
Most Secure Server Purism Librem ServersLibrem ServerApr 2024
Shipping April, 2024
The current product and shipping chart of Purism Librem products, updated on March 26th, 2024

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