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What Is A Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

Posted on Dec 20, 2023 by
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In the construction of wireless networks, wireless distribution system (WDS), as a key technology, provides robust support for the flexibility and scalability of networks. In this article, we will delve into the definition, working principles, and the crucial role WDS plays in building powerful seamless networks.

Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

The wireless distribution system (WDS) is a wireless network technology designed to extend the coverage of a wireless local area network (WLAN) by establishing transparent bridge connections between multiple wireless access points (AP). Through WDS, users can create a broader wireless network, enabling seamless roaming and enhancing overall network performance. This technology is typically applied in scenarios where the use of physical Ethernet cables is impractical, offering users a more flexible and efficient solution for network connectivity to improve network availability and fault tolerance.

How WDS Works

WDS achieves mutual communication among multiple Wireless Access Points (APs) by creating a transparent bridged network, making their connections seem as if they were wired. Primarily used for data transmission between APs in the same frequency band, WDS not only expands the wireless coverage area but also extends network connectivity to areas where wiring is challenging. Here are key points about the working principle of WDS:

  • Wireless Bridging: WDS technology enables the connection of multiple APs through wireless signals, allowing them to share and transfer network traffic. This means the network can expand from one AP to another, effectively increasing the coverage area.

  • Unique Identification Mechanism: In WDS networks, APs typically use their dedicated MAC addresses for communication. This mechanism allows APs to recognize and coordinate with each other, effectively organizing the network architecture. In some configurations, a common virtual MAC address may be used to facilitate seamless roaming for clients between multiple APs, reducing roaming interruptions and authentication delays.

  • Unified Identity and Security Settings: The smooth operation of WDS relies on all access points using a consistent wireless network name (SSID) and uniform security settings, such as WPA2 or WPA3 encryption protocols. This ensures that wireless clients can seamlessly switch between different APs during movement without repetitive security authentication, providing a smoother and more secure networking experience.

Through these points, WDS can meet the demand for a balanced and stable wireless network connection in spacious environments and multi-story buildings.

WDS Network Topology

Point-to-Point Bridging

In this network, WDS establishes a wireless bridge between two networks using two devices, achieving mutual connectivity. In practical applications, each device can determine the bridge link to establish by configuring the MAC address of the remote device. As shown in the diagram below, a WDS bridge link is established between AP 1 and AP 2, connecting LAN Segment 1 and LAN Segment 2 into a unified local area network. When users in LAN 1 need to access resources in LAN 2, all packets are transformed by AP 1 into wireless packets and sent over the wireless bridge link to AP 2. Finally, AP 2 restores and forwards the packets to the destination, and vice versa.

What Is A Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

Point-to-Multipoint Bridging

In a point-to-multipoint network environment, one device serves as the central device, and all other devices establish wireless bridges only with the central device, achieving interconnection between multiple networks. This networking solution conveniently addresses the requirement to connect multiple network islands to an existing network. However, data transfer between multiple branch networks requires the central bridging device.

What Is A Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

Mesh Bridging

Multiple bridging devices can establish a mesh wireless bridge either through manual configuration or automatic detection, connecting multiple local area networks into one network. A mesh bridging network can provide link backup functionality in case of a WDS link failure, but it requires the use of STP to address network loop issues in practical applications.

What Is A Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

Key Features of WDS

  • Seamless Roaming: WDS allows users to seamlessly roam between different wireless access points without the need for reauthentication. This means that mobile devices can move freely within the coverage area without experiencing interruptions in the connection.

  • Extended Network Coverage: By establishing transparent wireless bridge connections, WDS enables multiple wireless access points to work together, extending the coverage of the entire network. This is particularly useful for covering large areas or different floors in a location.

  • Flexibility and Easy Deployment: WDS is more flexible and easier to deploy in certain scenarios since it doesn't require physical cable connections. Especially in environments where laying wired cables is challenging, WDS provides a convenient solution for network expansion.

  • Simplified Network Management: WDS simplifies network management by incorporating multiple access points into the same logical network through bridge connections. Administrators can consistently configure SSIDs and security settings across the entire WDS network, enhancing management efficiency.

  • Improved Network Fault Tolerance: With bridge connections established between multiple access points, WDS enhances network fault tolerance. In the event of a failure at one access point, data can still be transmitted through other connections, improving the network's resilience and availability.

Considerations for WDS Implementation

Despite its advantages, WDS (Wireless Distribution System) also involves some considerations:

  • Network Layout and Planning: An ideal WDS deployment requires careful planning of the network layout. Ensuring sufficient signal strength between WDS nodes is crucial to maintaining stable wireless bridging.

  • Network Load Balancing: In a WDS network, certain nodes may handle more data forwarding, leading to uneven network loads. To optimize performance, the network should be designed to distribute the load reasonably.

  • Device Compatibility: WDS demands compatibility in hardware and firmware across all nodes. Building a WDS with devices from different manufacturers may lead to compatibility issues.

  • Wireless Interference: When deploying WDS, be mindful of potential wireless signal interference. By selecting appropriate wireless channels, strive to avoid conflicts with signals from other wireless devices.

  • Security Configuration: WDS networks extend the surface for security attacks, necessitating consistent and updated security configurations across all nodes, including the use of WPA3 encryption methods.

  • Roaming Management: When using WDS, client devices may roam between different access points within the WDS. Ensure smooth transitions for clients roaming between these nodes.

  • Firmware Updates: Regularly checking and updating the firmware of access points ensures device performance and addresses security vulnerabilities.

  • Backup Plans: For critical deployments, having backup plans allows for quick replacement of failed access points, minimizing network downtime.

Summary

In the ever-evolving digital era, the emergence of wireless distribution system (WDS) has brought new possibilities to the construction of wireless networks. By realizing key features such as seamless roaming and enhancing network fault tolerance, WDS not only meets the modern user's demand for efficient and reliable connections but also provides a flexible and scalable solution for various application scenarios. We can leverage this technology to build wireless network architectures that are more innovative and resilient.

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