Raspberry Pi 3B+ 802.15.4/6LoWPAN Setup

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Information on how to setup a Raspberry Pi 3B+ for 802.15.4 radio/6LoWPAN communication by utilizing an Openlabs 802.15.4 radio module.

This was tested successfully with Raspbian 10 (Buster) and Raspbian 11 (Bullseye). I assume it is also working on the latest Raspbian 12 (Bookworm).


Setup/Config 802.15.4/6LoWPAN on a Raspberry

Install Raspbian on Raspberry Pi 3B+

Preparation of Raspbian

Access the Raspberry Pi by attaching it via HDMI to a monitor. After enabling SSH it is possible to connect via SSH/terminal (default credentials are pi:raspberry).

  • (Optionally) Change keyboard setting to "German" and reboot:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration
  • Activate and start SSH on Raspberry:
sudo systemctl start ssh
sudo systemctl enable ssh
  • Upgrade of Raspbian:
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

Enable support for IEEE 802.15.4/LoWPAN devices

  • Plug the OpenLabs 802.15.4 radio module directly onto pins 15-26 of the Raspberry's P1 header (in the middle):

Raspberry-pi-802.15.4-radio module.jpgRaspberry-pi-802.15.4-radio connected.jpg

  • There is an existing overlay for this transceiver shipped with Raspbian, should be in /boot/overlays/at86rf233-overlay.dtb or /boot/overlays/at86rf233.dtbo:
ls /boot/overlays/at86rf233.dtbo
  • Enable transceiver by modifying the /boot/config.txt file and reboot:
sudo nano /boot/config.txt
# enable OpenLabs 802.15.4 radio module
dtoverlay=at86rf233, speed=3000000

Installation of Linux WPAN tools

Sources/Links: see References:#Linux WPAN tools

  • First install git and clone the wpan-tools Repository:
sudo apt install git
sudo mkdir /opt/src
sudo chown pi /opt/src
cd /opt/src
git clone https://github.com/linux-wpan/wpan-tools
  • Install some required packages before building the wpan-tools:
sudo apt install dh-autoreconf libnl-3-dev libnl-genl-3-dev
  • Configure, build and install wpan-tools:
cd /opt/src/wpan-tools
./configure CFLAGS='-g -O0' --prefix=/usr --sysconfdir=/etc --libdir=/usr/lib
sudo make install
  • Verification/test of wpan-tools installation:
iwpan dev

MANUAL WPAN interface configuration

Sources/Links: see References:#WPAN interface configuration

  • Configure the default PAN ID of RIOT-OS/SAMR21-xpro: 0x23
  • Configure the default channel ID of RIOT-OS/SAMR21-xpro: 26
ip link set lowpan0 down
ip link set wpan0 down
iwpan phy phy0 set channel 0 26 # same network ID and channel as RIOT default
iwpan dev wpan0 set pan_id 0x23 # same network ID and channel as RIOT default
ip link add link wpan0 name lowpan0 type lowpan
ip link set wpan0 up
ip link set lowpan0 up
  • Afterwards the lowpan0 interface on Raspberry has a link-local IPv6 address:
root@raspberrypi:~# ip a
1: lo: [...]
2: eth0: [...]
3: wlan0: [...]
4: wpan0: <BROADCAST,NOARP,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 123 qdisc pfifo_fast state UNKNOWN group default qlen 300
   link/ieee802.15.4 36:3a:07:cc:65:41:2b:31 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
5: lowpan0@wpan0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1280 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
   link/6lowpan 36:3a:07:cc:65:41:2b:31 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
   inet6 fe80::343a:7cc:6541:2b31/64 scope link
      valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

NOTE/CAUTION: Every reboot changes the link-local IPv6 address of the lowpan0 interface on the Raspberry!

See #PERSISTENT wpan0 and lowpan0 configuration to configure a persistent link-local address.

There are also scripts available to create/delete a lowpan interface (or to create/delete a monitor interface): https://github.com/RIOT-Makers/wpan-raspbian

PERSISTENT wpan0 and lowpan0 configuration

With static long hardware address and static link-local IPv6 address (to avoid a random link-local IPv6 address on each reboot).

Sources/Links: see References:#Persistent WPAN interface configuration

  • Clone riot-makers/wpan-raspbian GitHub repo:
cd /opt/src
git clone https://github.com/riot-makers/wpan-raspbian
cd wpan-raspbian
  • Copy some helper (shell) scripts to a well-known location:
sudo cp -r usr/local/sbin/* /usr/local/sbin/.
sudo chmod +x /usr/local/sbin/*
  • Afterwards copy files for systemd integration:
sudo cp etc/default/lowpan /etc/default/.
sudo cp etc/systemd/system/lowpan.service /etc/systemd/system/.
  • Modify 802.15.4 channel ID and PAN ID in /etc/default/lowpan as needed:
sudo nano /etc/default/lowpan
# set MAC to "" for random mac/hw address
# set IPv6 to "" if not required; note: set a prefix length
# Set ACK requests (Only enable if all devices on your PAN support ACKs)

Note: MAC="02:0:0:0:0:0:0:1" was taken from https://jan.newmarch.name/IoT/LinuxJournal/Routing/, this results in a link-local address of fe80::1 for the Raspberry.

  • Enable lowpan.service autostart, start 6LoWPAN service and verification:
sudo systemctl enable lowpan.service
sudo systemctl start lowpan.service
lowpan0: flags=4163<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,MULTICAST>  mtu 1280
   inet6 fe80::1  prefixlen 64  scopeid 0x20<link>
   unspec 02-00-00-00-00-00-00-01-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00  txqueuelen 1000  (UNSPEC)
   RX packets 0  bytes 0 (0.0 B)
   RX errors 0  dropped 0  overruns 0  frame 0
   TX packets 19  bytes 2114 (2.0 KiB)
   TX errors 0  dropped 0 overruns 0  carrier 0  collisions 0
wpan0: flags=195<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,NOARP>  mtu 123
       unspec 02-00-00-00-00-00-00-01-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00  txqueuelen 300  (UNSPEC)
       RX packets 72  bytes 2016 (1.9 KiB)
       RX errors 0  dropped 0  overruns 0  frame 0
       TX packets 74  bytes 5320 (5.1 KiB)
       TX errors 0  dropped 0 overruns 0  carrier 0  collisions 0

Verification of 6LoWPAN connectivity between a Raspberry and a SAMR21-xpro

  • Use RIOT's gnrc_networking example and build it for the SAMR21-xpro board, flash the firmware to the SAMR21-xpro and connect via pyterm:
cd RIOT/examples/gnrc_networking
make BOARD=samr21-xpro
make BOARD=samr21-xpro flash
make BOARD=samr21-xpro term
  • Use ifconfig to determine the 802.15.4/6LoWPAN interface ID of SAMR21-xpro (7 in this case):
# Iface  7  HWaddr: 57:98  Channel: 26  Page: 0  NID: 0x23  PHY: O-QPSK
#           Long HWaddr: E2:F9:02:0F:36:26:A2:68
#           inet6 addr: fe80::e0f9:20f:3626:a268  scope: link  VAL
  • Note: All ifconfig config options can be shown with ifconfig <interface id> set.
  • RIOT-OS default 802.15.4 channel is 26 and default PAN ID 0x23. If you change them, make sure to change them in the SAMR21-xpro configuration aswell:
ifconfig 7 set pan_id 0xbeef
ifconfig 7 set channel 13

Ping test from Raspberry to SAMR21-xpro

  • Multicast ping test through interface lowpan0 to group ff02::1 (all nodes in the link-local):
ping ff02::1%lowpan0        
PING ff02::1%lowpan0(ff02::1%lowpan0) 56 data bytes
64 bytes from fe80::1%lowpan0: icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.195 ms
64 bytes from fe80::e0f9:20f:3626:a268%lowpan0: icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=10.4 ms (DUP!)
  • Unicast ping (change to link-local IPv6 address of your SAMR21-xpro):
ping fe80::e0f9:20f:3626:a268%lowpan0
ping fe80::e0f9:20f:3626:a268%lowpan0
PING fe80::e0f9:20f:3626:a268%lowpan0(fe80::e0f9:20f:3626:a268%lowpan0) 56 data bytes
64 bytes from fe80::e0f9:20f:3626:a268%lowpan0: icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=23.0 ms

Ping test from SAMR21-xpro to Raspberry

  • Multicast ping test through interface 7 to group ff02::1:
# ping6 ff02::1%7
# 12 bytes from fe80::1%7: icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 rssi=-61 dBm time=8.309 ms
# 12 bytes from fe80::1%7: icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 rssi=-61 dBm time=6.124 ms
# 12 bytes from fe80::1%7: icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 rssi=-59 dBm time=6.461 ms
# --- ff02::1 PING statistics ---
# 3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0% packet loss
# round-trip min/avg/max = 6.124/6.964/8.309 ms
  • Unicast ping from SAMR21-xpro to Raspberry 6LoWPAN interface:
# ping6 fe80::1%7
# 12 bytes from fe80::1%7: icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 rssi=-61 dBm time=8.467 ms
# 12 bytes from fe80::1%7: icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 rssi=-61 dBm time=7.966 ms

Test CoAP communication between Raspberry and SAMR21-xpro

  • Install python3-pip and aiocoap on Raspberry:
sudo apt install python3-pip
pip3 install --upgrade "aiocoap[all]"
  • Clone aiocoap repo and start the included simple CoAP server:
git clone https://github.com/chrysn/aiocoap.git
cd aiocoap
python3 server.py
  • Use gcoap example on SAMR21-xpro (RIOT-OS repo already cloned):
cd ~/RIOT/example/gcoap
make BOARD=samr21-xpro         //build gcoap example
make BOARD=samr21-xpro flash       //flah gcoap to samr21-xpro
make BOARD=samr21-xpro term     //start pyterm
  • [optional] Reset SAMR21-xpro and change 6LoWPAN settings:
ifconfig 7 set pan_id 0xbeef
ifconfig 7 set channel 13
  • Send a CoAP request to the CoAP server:

coap put [fe80::1%7] 5683 /send test

Possible Problems with 6LoWPAN, SAMR21-xpro and Raspberry Pi (with Openlabs 802.15.4 radio)

  • 6LoWPAN: RIOT does not receive packets from Linux when short_addr is set #11033
  • Do not use Raspberry Pi 4 with OpenLabs 802.15.4 radio module:
    • At least with the newest available Kernel (i.e. 5.10 during our tests) it was only possible to send 802.15.4 packets to SAMR21-xpro and the Raspberry did not receive any packets from SAMR21-xpro.
    • It is better to use a Raspberry Pi 3B(+)
      • Successfully tested with Raspbian 9 (Stretch), Raspbian 10 (Buster) and Raspbian 11 (Bullseye)
  • Monitoring 802.15.4/6LoWPAN traffic: Correct channel ID must be set (RIOT-OS default: 26)
  • Communication SAMR21-xpro<->Raspberry: The same channel ID (RIOT-OS default: 26) and PAN ID need to be set (RIOT-OS default: 0x23)

TODO: Monitoring/Sniffing 802.15.4/6LoWPAN radio with a Raspberry

Used Hardware


  • IT-Security master's programme: Mobile and Embedded Security ILV


Linux WPAN tools

WPAN interface configuration

Persistent WPAN interface configuration