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Introduction to Wireless Networking

ECE 477
Spring 2016

Lecture 3: Wireless LANs and IEEE 802.11 Part I

Now we study a significant new area of wireless communications over the past 10 years
Wireless Local Area Networks.
Chapter 11 Wireless LAN Technology and the IEEE 802.11
Wireless LAN Standard
I. Overview
WLANs are an indispensable adjunct to traditional wired LANs.
Satisfy requirements for
Easy workstation relocation
Ad hoc networking
Coverage of locations difficult to wire.
Until a few years ago, however, WLANs were little used.
High prices
Low data rates
Occupational safety concerns.
Licensing requirements.
Products were produced since the late 1980s, however.
To be substitutes for traditional wired LANs.
- Less costly installation than LAN cabling.
- Ease of relocation.
But architects designed new buildings with extensive LAN wiring
already built in.
Buildings already wired for LANs had little reason to switch to
So, use of WLANs to replace wired LANs did not happen to any
great extent, until laptops and wireless devices proliferated.
- Bit rates were still much lower.
- Coverage could still be uneven.
In office buildings, WLANs still mainly serve as alternatives or
enhancements to networks already present.
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Application Areas of WLANs

LAN Extension
In many buildings, a wired LAN will already likely exist.
- But wireless extends the range and mobility.
- Hence, the term LAN extension.
WLANs are especially useful in special environments. What are

Buildings with large open spaces.

Manufacturing plants.
Stock exchange trading floors.
Small offices
Conference Rooms
Home offices
Outdoors (courtyards, parks, etc.)
WLANs are now also very useful for smartphones instead of using
cellular minutes.

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Sample single-cell WLAN configuration

- A Control Module (CM) acts as an interface to the WLAN.

- User Modules (UMs) can be used to connect to other wired
- The CM connects to a larger Ethernet.
- And wirelessly connects workstations and smaller wired LANs.
- This is a single-cell WLAN
- All systems are within range of a single CM.
Sample multiple-cell WLAN configuration

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- Multiple control modules are connected by a wired LAN.

- What challenges are involved in getting optimal performance in
such a multi-CM configuration?

Connecting to the best CM, even

if several are in range.
Handing off to another when
moving without interruption.
Making sure CMs do not
Load balancing avoid one CM
overloaded, use bandwidth most
Nomadic Access
Laptops can move freely.

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Ad Hoc Networking

A peer-to-peer network.
- No centralized controller.
In "ad hoc networks" devices talk to whatever other devices they
can talk to.
- From a dictionary: Ad hoc = Formed for or concerned with
one specific purpose (usually also considered temporary).
- Networks of devices that are all peers and talk to whoever is near
- Examples:
- A set of computers that talk to each other during a meeting.
- Devices that share files, e-mails, calendars, etc. when in range.
- As devices move, they change their connections with other
- May send data through a sequence of neighbors to reach an end
Wireless LAN Requirements
Make as efficient use as possible of the wireless medium.
Provide data rates fast enough to not hinder users.
- Make the network invisible.

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Number of nodes
May need to support hundreds of nodes across multiple cells.
Difficult scenarios:
Many users in a lecture halls, several
smartphones watching videos.
Connection to a backbone LAN to the Internet
Service area
Diameter of 100 to 300 meters
Battery power consumption
Do not require battery-powered workstations to constantly transmit.
- No constant monitoring of CMs.
- No frequent handshakes or keepalives.
Allow workstations to not use transmission power when not using
the network.
Transmission robustness and security
Prevent problems with interference.
Prevent eavesdropping and many other possible security problems.
Since operated by end-users, make configuration easy.
- So that users do not inadvertently leave security features turned
Collocated network operation
Allow two or more WLANs to operate in the same area.
License-free operation
Do not need to buy licenses to operate.
Enable mobile stations to move from one cell to another.
Dynamic configuration
Permit addition, deletion, and relocation of end systems.
In a dynamic or automatic way.
Without disruption to end users.

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The following diagram provides a useful illustration to compare wired,

wireless, and mobile data networks.

Wireless LAN Physical Layer Technology

Spread Spectrum
Method allowed when using unlicensed frequency bands.
Spreads a signal across a wide bandwidth.
- But not very strong at any one frequency.
- Allows many uncoordinated sources to use the same bandwidth.
CDMA and OFDM are used.

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II. The IEEE 802 Architecture

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
A technical, professional, and student society.
Publishes many journals and magazines.
Also has developed a few technical standards.
Most notably Local Area Network standards.
Ethernet (802.3) and others.
802.11 is the working group for Wireless LANs
Created by the IEEE LAN /MAN Standards Committee (LMSC)
Started in 1980
Working Groups (those of most interest to us in bold)1
802.1 Higher Layer LAN Protocols Working Group (active)
802.2 Logical Link Control (LLC) Working Group (inactive)
802.3 Ethernet Group (active) standard for wired LANs
802.4 Token Bus Working Group (disbanded)
802.5 Token Ring Working Group (inactive)
802.6 Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) Working Group (disbanded)
802.7 BroadBand Technical Adv. Group (BBTAG) (disbanded)
802.8 Fiber Optic Technical Adv. Group (FOTAG) (disbanded)
802.9 Integrated Services LAN (ISLAN) Working Group (disbanded)
802.10 Standard for Interoperable LAN Security (SILS) Working Group
** 802.11 Wireless LAN (WLAN) Working Group (active)
802.12 Demand Priority Working Group (disbanded)
802.14 Cable Modem Working Group Working Group (disbanded)
** 802.15 Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) Working Group (active)
Personal Area Networks or short distance wireless networks for devices
such as PCs, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), peripherals, cell phones,
pagers, and consumer electronics
802.16 Broadband Wireless Access (BBWA) Working Group (active)
Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks

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802.17 Resilient Packet Ring (RPR) (hibernating)

Resilient Packet Ring fiber optic networks in Local, Metropolitan,
and Wide Area Networks for resilient and efficient transfer of data
packets at rates scalable to many gigabits per second.
802.18 Radio Regulatory Technical Advisory Group (active)
Monitoring of, and active participation in, ongoing radio regulatory
activities, at both the national and international levels.
802.19 Coexistence Technical Advisory Group (active)
Define the responsibilities of 802 standards developers to address issues of
coexistence with existing standards and other standards under
802.20 Mobile Broadband Wireless Access Working Group (hibernating)
Efficient packet based air interface that is optimized for the transport
of IP based services. Specification of physical and medium access
control layers operating in licensed bands below 3.5 GHz, optimized
for IP-data transport, with peak data rates per user in excess of 1
Mbps for various vehicular mobility classes up to 250 Km/h in a
MAN environment.
802.21 Media Independent Handoff Working Group (active)
Enable handover and interoperability between heterogeneous network
types including both 802 and non 802 networks.
802.22 Wireless Regional Area Networks (active)
Develop a standard for a cognitive radio-based PHY/MAC/airinterface for
use by license-exempt devices on a non-interfering basis in spectrum that
was allocated to the TV Broadcast Service.
802.23 Emergency Services Working Group (disbanded)
Provide consistent access and data that facilitate compliance to
applicable civil authority requirements for citizen-to-authority
emergency services capabilities (like E-911) for communications
systems that include IEEE 802 networks.
802.24 Vertical Applications Technical Advisory Group (active)
This group focuses on application categories that use IEEE 802 technology
to act as a liaison with industry and regulatory agencies. Examples of
current and potential application categories are: Smart Grid, Machine to
Machine (M2M), Internet of Things (IoT), Vehicular Networking.
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Defines layering of protocols that organize basic functions.
Open Standards Interconnection Model (OSI)
Developed by the International Organization for Standardization

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Another view

The IEEE standards focus on the lower layers and subdivide them.

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Physical Layer
General functions
- Encoding/decoding of data into signals to be sent over a wireless
medium through an antenna.
- Preemble generation/removal
- Beginning and ending bits added for synchronization
- Bit transmission/reception
Physical medium dependent functionality
- Specifics of infrared, spread spectrum, etc.
Medium Access Control
Assembles groups of data bits into frames
Also includes addresses, error correction fields, etc.
Upon reception, disassembles the frame, and checks for errors.
Governs how stations get access to the medium.
- Two options
- Random access anyone can transmit at any time, but if
collisions occur they must try again in prescribed ways.
- Controlled access Give stations particular frequencies, time
slots, etc.
Logical Link Control
Provides interfaces to the network layer.
Performs flow control
- Makes sure a transmitting entity does not overwhelm a receiving
entity with data.
- Typically allocates data buffers.
- So data is not lost while a station is processing other packets.
- And makes sources adjust sending rates.
Performs error control
- Corrects errors
- Or has frames retransmitted

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As data is passed down the protocol stack, each layer may add its
own information.
- To the header and maybe the trailer of the packet.

- The IP (Internet Protocol) header corresponds to the ________

- IP is far and away the most prominent protocol.
- The TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) corresponds to the


- TCP is used for data, others are used for audio/video.

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MAC Frame Format

There are several 802 MAC protocols
But all MAC formats follow a format close to the following.

MAC Control specific control information for a particular MAC

Destination MAC address Destination physical attachment point on
the wired or wireless LAN.
Source MAC address Source physical attachment.
Data Body of the MAC frame.
CRC Cyclic Redundancy Check field.
Also called a frame check sequence.
Destination does a computation operation on the received bits, if the
result is different than the CRC, an error has occurred.
MAC just detects errors, LLC takes action.

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Logical Link Control

Optionally keeps track of unsuccessful frames and retransmits them.
Not all LAN protocols do this.
Supports the ulti-access, shared-medium nature of a link.
See textbook for more details (Section 11.2).

802.11 Architecture and Services

802.11 Working Group
Started in 1990
To develop MAC protocol and physical medium specifications.
And use existing 802 LLC functions.
Initial interest was to use unlicensed frequencies.
Called the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, and Medical) bands in U.S.
The 802.11 Working Group has an ever-expanding list of standards.
Table 11.1 IEEE 802.11 Standards


Medium access control (MAC): One common MAC for WLAN

IEEE 802.11


Physical layer: Infrared at 1 and 2 Mbps

Physical layer: 2.4-GHz FHSS at 1 and 2 Mbps
Physical layer: 2.4-GHz DSSS at 1 and 2 Mbps

IEEE 802.11a


Physical layer: 5-GHz OFDM at rates from 6 to 54 Mbps

IEEE 802.11b


Physical layer: 2.4-GHz DSSS at 5.5 and 11 Mbps

IEEE 802.11c


Bridge operation at 802.11 MAC layer

IEEE 802.11d


Physical layer: Extend operation of 802.11 WLANs to new

regulatory domains (countries)

IEEE 802.11e


MAC: Enhance to improve quality of service and enhance

security mechanisms

IEEE 802.11f


Recommended practices for multivendor access point


IEEE 802.11g


Physical layer: Extend 802.11b to data rates >20 Mbps


Physical/MAC: Enhance IEEE 802.11a to add indoor and

outdoor channel selection and to improve spectrum and transmit
power management

IEEE 802.11h

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IEEE 802.11i


MAC: Enhance security and authentication mechanisms

IEEE 802.11j


Physical: Enhance IEEE 802.11a to conform to Japanese


IEEE 802.11k


Radio Resource Measurement enhancements to provide interface

to higher layers for radio and network measurements

IEEE 802.11m


This group provides maintenance of the IEEE 802.11 standard by

rolling published amendments into revisions of the 802.11

IEEE 802.11n


Physical/MAC: Enhancements to enable higher throughput

IEEE 802.11p


Wireless Access in Vehicular Environments (WAVE)

IEEE 802.11r


Fast Roaming/Fast BSS Transition

IEEE 802.11s


Mesh Networking

IEEE 802.11T


IEEE 802.11u


Interworking with External Networks

IEEE 802.11v


Wireless Network Management

IEEE 802.11w


Protected Management Frames

IEEE 802.11y


Contention Based Protocol

IEEE 802.11z


Extensions to Direct Link Setup

IEEE 802.11aa


Video Transport Stream

IEEE 802.11ac


IEEE 802.11ad


Very High Throughput in 60 GHz

IEEE 802.11ae


Prioritization of Management Frames

IEEE 802.11af


Wireless LAN in the TV White Space

IEEE 802.11ah


Sub 1GHz for applications that benefit from range extension,

such as smart meters.

IEEE 802.11ai


Fast Initial Link Set-up to reduce time to set up an association

IEEE 802.11aj


China Milli-Meter Wave (CMMW)

IEEE 802.11ak


Enhancements For Transit Links Within Bridged Networks

IEEE 802.11aq


Pre-Association Discovery (PAD) to discover services

IEEE 802.11ax


High Efficiency WLAN (HEW)

IEEE 802.11ay


Enhanced Throughput for Operation in License-Exempt Bands

above 45 GHz

IEEE 802.11az


Next Generation Positioning

Recommended Practice for Evaluation of 802.11 Wireless


Very High Throughput <6Ghz

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The latest list of active groups is available from the 802.11 web site

Information is listed under Task Groups.

Wi-Fi Alliance

The first 802.11 standard to gain industry acceptance was 802.11b.

2.4 GHz, up to 11 Mbps.
There was concern whether products would successfully interoperate
Linksys Access Point with a Cisco laptop card?
Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) formed in 1990.
Renamed the Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) Alliance in 2003.
Certifies interoperability for 802.11 products.
Certified products are called Wi-Fi.
The Wi-Fi Alliance is concerned with markets for WLANs in
enterprises, homes, and public hot spots.
The 802.11 Architecture

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The smallest building block of a WLAN is a



Stations executing the same MAC protocol.

Stations competing for access to the same shared wireless medium.
Two BSSs can overlap geographically.
- A single station can participate in more than one BSS.
- Using different frequency bands.
BSSs connect through a Distribution System (DS).
Can be a switch, a wired network, or a wireless network.


is the bridge and relay point.

Stations do not communicate directly with each other.

- But through the AP.
An AP is part of a station.
- STA1 and STA5 above.
If there is no connection to other BSSs, the BSS is called an


Stations can communicate directly using ad hoc networking

No AP is necessary.
An Extended Service Set (ESS) consists of two or more BSSs
connected by a distribution system.
The entire ESS appears as a single logical LAN to the LLC.
Here is a table of 802.11 terminology.
Table 11.2 IEEE 802.11 Terminology
Access point (AP)

Any entity that has station functionality and provides access to the
distribution system via the wireless medium for associated stations

Basic service set (BSS)

A set of stations controlled by a single coordination function

Coordination function

The logical function that determines when a station operating

within a BSS is permitted to transmit and may be able to receive

Distribution system (DS)

A system used to interconnect a set of BSSs and integrated LANs to

create an ESS
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Extended service set


A set of one or more interconnected BSSs and integrated LANs that

appear as a single BSS to the LLC layer at any station associated
with one of these BSSs

MAC protocol data unit


The unit of data exchanged between two peer MAC entities using
the services of the physical layer

MAC service data unit


Information that is delivered as a unit between MAC users


Any device that contains an IEEE 802.11 conformant MAC and

physical layer

IEEE 802.11 Services

Nine services are provided to give functionality equivalent to wired
Table 11.3 IEEE 802.11 Services


Used to support


Distribution system

MSDU delivery



LAN access and security



LAN access and security


Distribution system

MSDU delivery


Distribution system

MSDU delivery


Distribution system

MSDU delivery

MSDU delivery


MSDU delivery



LAN access and security


Distribution system

MSDU delivery

Two ways the services are categorized.

1. Provided by every 802.11 station (including APs) or by provided
by the distribution system.
2. LAN access and security versus delivery of MAC packets (called
MAC Service Data Units MSDUs).
MSDU Delivery Service
MSDUs are the blocks of data passed down to the MAC layer.
This service executes the delivery.
And if the MSDU is too large, it may be broken into smaller frames.
- This process is called


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Services for Association

To transfer MSDUs, stations must be known to the WLAN.
- To know where a destination station is located.
A station must be associated.
- Before it can deliver or accept data.
Types of mobility to be supported.
- No transition only movement within the range of a BSS.
- BSS transition to another BSS in the same ESS.
- Addressing capabilities must recognize the new location.
- Hopefully with a fast, seamless transition (no disruption of
service from users viewpoint, on the order of 10s of msec).
- ESS transition to another ESS.
- Likely will cause a service disruption in this case.
- Association
- Associate with an AP.
- APs share information with other APs.
- Reassociation
- Transfer an association to another AP.
- Disassociation
- Hopefully tell AP when leaving.
- MAC management facility also protects itself against stations
that disappear without disassociating.
Services for Access and Privacy
WLANs cannot rely on a physical wired connection for security.
- WLANs are open to anyone within radio range.
- Authentication/deauthentication
- Establishes the identity of stations to each other.
- Several authentication schemes are supported.
- And also allows for expansion of the functionality.
- The standard does not mandate any authentication scheme.
- Whatever is used must be agreed upon by stations and APs.
- Privacy
- Contents of messages should not be read by unintended
- Encryption can optionally be used for this.
Next lecture: Details on 802.11, its MAC layer wireless sharing approach, and its
security features.
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