Network Configurations

Infrastructure Mode

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 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

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Ad-Hoc Mode

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 Ad Hoc mode contains:
    • Wireless hosts only
    • Distributed management
      • Each station searches for a IBSS before starting it’s 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 in Ad-Hoc mode only implement WEP (the original 802.11 security framework), which is known to be easily broken.

For this reason, 802.11 Ad-Hoc mode is unsupported in some systems (Android for example). This has lead to the development of alternative configurations for implementing point-point Wi-Fi® communications, such as Wi-Fi Direct or Soft-AP.

Click image to enlarge.

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