Setting Up A New Access Point With The Old Router A Brief History of Wireless Networking

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A Brief History of Wireless Networking

The first true wireless network was ALOHAnet, developed at the University of Hawaii in the early 1970s. This led to the development of wireless networks that are widely used today, such as the 802.11 WLAN standards and the 802.15 Bluetooth PAN standards.

ALOHA used a random access method to transmit packet data at UHF frequencies, and this system of sending packet data became known as the ALOHA channel method. ALOHAnet was used to connect a number of computers on 4 Hawaiian islands. Adoption of this communication method spread to the satellite world and was even used in some early first and second generation mobile communication systems.

The ALOHA experiment spurred much research into packet radio networks using spread spectrum techniques, and in 1985 the FCC allocated experimental frequency bands for commercial use of spread spectrum techniques. These bands became known as the ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) bands, originally for use with non-communications devices such as microwave ovens and hospital equipment such as diathermy machines, which were used as muscle relaxants by generating heat.

Devices used for communications may use these ISM bands, but with the caveat that the ISM equipment may be a source of interference. For this reason, communications equipment operating in these bands must be designed to operate under error-prone conditions. It was necessary to develop good error detection methods to ensure that communication was not compromised by, for example, a diathermy machine nearby.

The first standards for wireless local area networks were born from discussions and workshops held in the early 1990s, and eventually the IEEE announced the first 802.11 standards. The 802.11b standard operates in the 2.4 GHz band at speeds of up to 11 Mbps, while the 802.11a and 802.11g standards operate at 54 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, respectively. In 2008, the 802.11 committee approved the draft 802.11n standard with a data rate of 300 Mbps. This draft standard used MIMO (multiple input multiple output) through the use of multiple transmit and receive antennas and a technique called spatial diversity. Some modern wireless networking equipment can use two separate bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) to improve reliability and performance.

The modulation techniques used for WiFi had to include techniques to combat interference in the error-prone ISM bands. IEEE 802.11b uses a modulation technique called direct sequence spread spectrum with complementary code keying (CCK), which uses 64 eight-bit codewords to encode data at 5.5 and 11 Mbps and is finally modulated using QPSK (Quadrature Phase Keying manipulation). The IEEE 802.11a and 802.11g standards use OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing), where the radio band is divided into 64 subchannels that operate in parallel. Each subcarrier is modulated using BPSK, QPSK, or square amplitude modulation. Some of the subcarriers carry redundant duplicate information, so if interference affects a number of subcarriers, the data can usually be retrieved and reconstructed.

WiFi, as it is commonly called, can be configured in 3 main topologies:

Ad hoc – An ad hoc network, otherwise known as IBSS (Independent Basic Service Set), where all stations interact with each other in a peer-to-peer configuration. There is no need for a wireless access point as all stations communicate with each other directly. There is usually no planning and certainly no site review before creating a “custom” network. Stations can only talk to other stations that are in range of each other. This is a problem known as a “hidden node” where a station can hear two other stations, but the two stations may not be able to hear each other due to their geographic location. The station in the middle has no means of transmitting information between the other two. There is no access point to act as a source of time information, so the time must be achieved in a distributed manner. The first transmitting station sets the “beacon interval” and creates a set of target beacon transmission times (TBTT). After reaching TBTT, the customer:

– Suspend all pending timers from the previous TBTT.

– Define a new random delay.

– If another beacon signal arrives before the random delay ends, pause the random delay timers. If the beacon does not arrive, send the beacon and resume the suspended delay timers.

There is a built-in timer synchronization function (TSF) inside the beacon, where each client compares the TSF in the received beacon with its own timer, and if the received value is greater, it updates its own timer. This results in each client eventually synchronizing with the station that has the fastest timer. The time required for time allocation will depend on the number of clients on the network.

BSS (Basic Service Set) – All stations communicate through a wireless access point and must associate with that wireless access point using an SSID (Service Set Identifier). Within the BSS, the access point will act as a central point for all communications within the BSS network. Essentially, the AP relays frames between clients and thus receives all data traffic as well as control traffic. In addition, the access point may well be connected to a wired network, providing customers with access to communications for a wider audience.

An ESS (Extended Service Set) is a series of BSSs connected through their uplink interfaces, via a wired or wireless connection. BSSs are connected to a so-called distribution system (DS), which in most cases is a wired network. An ESS is sometimes referred to as a multi-infrastructure BSS due to the fact that a number of BSSs are used to form it. Once again, clients must communicate with the AP to pass traffic to other clients within a BSS or in a neighboring BSS connected to the same DS.

Wireless networks are becoming increasingly popular for both business and home users, mainly because of the mobility they allow. Less cabling infrastructure is required and users can roam within the WLAN coverage area. Many devices now support wireless connectivity, including wireless access points, wireless adapters, wireless routers, and of course, many laptops come with built-in wireless.

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