Network Configurations

Infrastructure Mode

This is the standard network configuration mode utilized for Wi-Fi® networks.

  • Uses Access Points (AP).
  • Nodes can only transmit to other nodes through the AP.
  • AP fully supports all 802.11 network management functions and operations.
  • Basic Service Set (BSS) (aka cell) in the infrastructure mode contains:
    • Access points
    • Wireless hosts
    • LAN connection (second PHY)

In a typical home access network, the AP function is combined with switch and router functionality in a single device, such as the Linksys E1200.

network-configurations-infrastructure.png
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Ad-Hoc Mode

  • No Access Points.
  • Nodes can only transmit to other nodes within link coverage.
  • Nodes organize themselves into a network of peer-peer connections.
  • Independent Basic Service Set (IBSS) (aka cell) in the ad-hoc mode contains:
    • Wireless hosts only
    • Distributed management
      • Each station searches for an IBSS before starting its own (best practice – not mandated by 802.11).
      • Each station takes turns transmitting the beacon for the IBSS.
      • Each station applies security to communications.

Due to the computational/protocol overhead of current Wi-Fi security frameworks (i.e. WPA/2), most stations only implement WEP (the original 802.11 security framework) in ad-hoc mode. The WEP is known to be easily broken.

For this reason, 802.11 ad-hoc mode is not supported in some systems (for example, Android). This has led to the development of alternative configurations for implementing point-point Wi-Fi communications, such as Wi-Fi Direct or SoftAP.

network-configurations-ad-hoc.png
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