Using an AirPort Express with FiOS

As I mentioned yesterday, there were a few unfinished items left after the FiOS installation yesterday. I got two of the items taken care of this morning, but I was a little disturbed at what I had to do to make things work.

After the installation was complete on Sunday, I connected to the administrative web page of the Actiontec router that Verizon had provided (and which is required with the Verizon TV package). I reconfigured the router to take over the network name (SSID) that I had been using on my AirPort Extreme, changed the security to WPA2, and set the passphrase to the one I had been using previously. Our laptops and my iPhone picked up the change, but my AirPort Express units (which provide wireless printer support and AirTunes) didn’t. They’re first generation AirPort Express, and do 802.11G and 802.11b only.

After some pulling my hair out this morning, I found a thread on the Apple support message boards that suggested that the original AirPort Express was incompatible with the Actiontec version of WPA2. I changed the Verizon router to use regular WPA and told the AirPort Express to use WPA/WPA2 for authentication. After rebooting, I finally got a good connection (green light) with the Express. My second Express didn’t need any reconfiguration–I simply unplugged it and plugged it back in, and it worked.

So there’s that. What’s left is getting my hard drive, with all my music, back on the network. I may have to run an Ethernet drop into the living room over Christmas. Or try one of the tricks for supplanting the Actiontec for wireless.

(It’s more than a little annoying, btw, that I had to use regular WPA instead of WPA2. WPA2 is a much more secure protocol and WPA has been cracked.)

11 comments...What do you think?

  1. Posted by Todd 20th January, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Did you install the Airport Express via ethernet to the Actiontec router, or is it acting as a wireless bridge? I was thinking about getting an Express to serve music to another room of the house, but I don’t have ethernet in that area of the house. Thoughts?

  2. Posted by Tim Jarrett 20th January, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    My original configuration had the Airport Express configured as a wireless client (not a bridge) of the Actiontec’s wireless network, and it worked quite well.

    The one thing that the AEx can’t do as a wireless client of a non-Apple network is to bridge the wireless network to a device that’s connected to its Ethernet port. You can only bridge the wireless network to the AEx’s Ethernet port if it’s extending an Apple network (or if some other vendor has done a compatible implementation of WDS, but right now that doesn’t appear to be the case). I needed to bridge to a wired device from my Airport Express, so ended up setting up my existing Apple AirPort Extreme router alongside the Actiontec, and now there are two wireless LANs in the house. They see each other, so it’s not a big deal–but it never fails to amaze me how complex this stuff gets.

  3. Posted by Laura 23rd January, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Can you explain to an intermediate Mac techie how to change the Verizon router to using regular WPA?

    I’m trying to extend my Fios reach with AirPort express and am still in the hair-pulling stage.

  4. Posted by Tim Jarrett 23rd January, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I’ll write something about the security settings (WPA) on the FiOS router (Actiontec) tonight when I can look at them, but you may have a problem extending the range with an AirPort Express.

    The AirPort Express can act as a “client” and stream AirTunes or connect a printer to the network on just about any wireless network. It can only extend the range of a wireless network originating from an Apple base station. So unless I’ve missed something (entirely possible), I don’t think there’s a way to do what you’re trying to do.

    There are some alternatives suggested on MacForums that may work for you.

  5. Posted by Laura 23rd January, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I’d planned on getting the Time Capsule setup anyway, and Apple says that can be established as a separate network to act as the bridge between Fios and the AirPort Express, so that’ll pull everything together. Crossing my fingers for a happy ending.

  6. Posted by Greg 14th October, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I am trying to setup an airport express to connect wirelessly to my actiontec fios router and stream music to my stereo in another room. The only way I can make this work is by disabling WEP on the router. However, I dont want my network to be open. I see that using WPA is the way to do this. Is the “pre-shared” key for WPA a hex number that I make up?

  7. Posted by Tim Jarrett 14th October, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Greg, I’m not sitting on my home network right now, but I recall that the pre-shared key that you use is actually a passphrase (alphanumeric rather than hex). It might depend on which flavor of WPA you’re choosing–there are several. For best security, you want to choose one of the WPA2 flavors, as plain old WPA is easily cracked (as is WEP)–assuming your devices support it (mine didn’t).

  8. Posted by Scott Simmons 2nd December, 2009 at 1:01 am

    So I’m mixed up, should you use WPA as your post at the top suggests, or wpa2 as your bottom post suggests?

    I changed the Verizon router to use regular WPA and told the AirPort Express to use WPA/WPA2 for authentication. After rebooting, I finally got a good connection (green light) with the Express.

    It might depend on which flavor of WPA you’re choosing–there are several. For best security, you want to choose one of the WPA2 flavors, as plain old WPA is easily cracked -wouldn’t that break the express again?

  9. Posted by Ron 1st October, 2010 at 11:32 am

    If you want your old airport express to work with the Fios router it is just a simple matter of turning off the WEP security thus enabling WPA security[not password protected]. This is easily accomplished by going on the Verizon site[192.168.1.1/and changing the security settings . After many frustrating hours trying to solve this problem and having been told by an Apple employee that my airport express wasn’t working, I now have the steady green light.

  10. Posted by Warren 29th October, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I recently changed from an Apple extreme with an Apple express relay to a Verizon WiFi router. When I set up the relay all seemed to go well: it accepted the WPA2 security code and the light is steady green. The problem is that the express does not seem to be relaying a signal. There is no extension or increase in strength of coverage.

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