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Wireless Distribution System (WDS)


A wireless distribution system (WDS) is a method of connecting access points (AP) in a wireless local area network (LAN) without the use of a cable backbone. As per the IEEE 802.11 standard, a distribution system is the infrastructure that links access points.

Wireless distribution systems are an approach to distributing equipment that allows a wireless network to grow. When the physical wire is not an option, they are utilized by a number of businesses to extend the reach of a network.

Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

Bridging a WLAN between two buildings is the most popular use for a wireless distribution system. In its most basic form, a WDS consists of two access points that are set up to communicate with one another by way of message forwarding and work with an antenna to facilitate line-of-sight connection.

Two or more Wi-Fi base stations, also known as access points, that operate as a single system are needed to use a WDS. In addition to accepting new user connections, the access points transmit network packets from user sessions to various other WDS access points. Usually, an Ethernet switch is used to link access points.

While the idea behind a mesh network and a WDS are similar, mesh networks are more recent and come with capabilities like mesh router configuration and automated discovery. Furthermore, compared to WDS, mesh networks are more fault-tolerant and dynamic. The mesh network can locate other routes if a link within the mesh router fails. On the other hand, in the case that a WDS link breaks, there is no backup failover method.

How WDS Works?

WDS works by utilizing a bridge-like technique to connect numerous wireless access points to establish an expanded wireless network. Because each WDS access point is set up as a bridge, it may serve client devices (such as laptops and smartphones) within its coverage area and simultaneously engage in wireless communication with other WDS-enabled access points. By exchanging management frames and data over the air, the WDS-enabled access points build a cohesive network architecture.

The following are the main aspects of understanding how WDS works:

  1. Wireless Bridge: WDS creates a wireless bridge that connects two or more access points. This bridge allows all connected access points to act as though they were linked via wired Ethernet, enabling transparent forwarding of data messages between various wireless network segments.
  2. Virtual MAC Address: Every access point that supports WDS is given a virtual Media Access Control (MAC) address, which is used for inter-WDS network communication. By using this virtual MAC address, the linked access points can accurately recognize the frames of one another.
  3. SSID and Security: For a WDS network to work, every access point must have the same Service Set Identifier (SSID) and security configurations (such as WPA2, WPA3). This assures that client devices will never have to reconnect while roaming between several access points.

How to configure a wireless distribution system

Two or more access points must be set with the same SSID in order to create a distributed WLAN. A single Layer 2 broadcast domain contains a single logical network made up of all access points set with the same SSID; hence, communication between them is essential. This is accomplished via the distribution system.

Advantages of WDS:

  1. Extended Coverage: WDS makes it possible to expand wireless coverage to places like remote buildings and outdoor spaces that could be expensive or impossible to access via wired connections.
  2. Seamless Roaming: WDS makes it possible for client devices to roam around the larger network without interruption. Clients can switch between access points without any problems as long as the SSID and security configurations remain the same.
  3. Simplified Deployment: Compared to installing Ethernet cables between access points, implementing a WDS network might be easier and less expensive.
  4. Scalability: To accommodate increasing network demands, WDS networks can be readily extended by adding more WDS-capable access points as needed.
  5. Flexibility: WDS is compatible with different wireless routers and access point types, making it function with already installed network infrastructure.

Considerations for WDS Implementation

  1. Performance Impact: When compared to a non-WDS system, WDS provides some overhead because it repeatedly forwards frames between access points, which could result in a slight decrease in the network's overall efficiency.
  2. Compatibility and Vendor Support: Different vendors may implement WDS differently, and not all access points might support WDS or may be limited in the number of WDS connections they are able to create.
  3. Security Concerns: Since WDS connects all linked access points, security settings need to be carefully considered in order to prevent unwanted network access.
  4. Channel Overlapping: Excessive channel overlapping in a WDS network can cause interference and lower network performance, so it should be avoided.
  5. Complexity of Management: It can be more difficult to maintain a WDS network than a conventional WLAN, especially when resolving connectivity problems.

Applications of Wireless Distribution Systems

Wireless Distribution System (WDS)
  1. Home Wi-Fi Extension: WDS can be used to expand Wi-Fi coverage in large homes or buildings where a single wireless router might not be able to offer enough coverage. Strategic placement of extra access points will ensure dependable and constant wireless connectivity across the entire area.
  2. Business and Office Environments: To provide smooth Wi-Fi coverage throughout several floors or locations, WDS is frequently utilized in office environments. This is vital for maintaining connectivity while employees move throughout the office.
  3. Campus Networks: WDS can assist in establishing a unified wireless network on college campuses, business campuses, and other large locations. It enables workers or students to join the network and move freely within the campus.


In summary, a wireless distribution system (WDS) is a networking system that allows wireless coverage to be expanded by establishing wireless connections between several access points. When installing physical Ethernet connections is not practicable, WDS enables better network coverage, seamless roaming, and easier setup. A successful WDS deployment, however, requires careful design, configuration, and consideration of potential security and performance concerns.

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