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IEEE 802.

11s Wireless Mesh Networks

Anastasios Daniilidis, Khalil Khalil

Dept. of Communication Systems,
Lund University,
Box 118 SE-221 00, Lund, Sweden
{d04ad, e02kk}

Abstract 802.11s where the TGs define an extended service set (ESS)
of a number of devices (nodes) interconnected to each oth-
Nowdays, WLAN technology covers a wide variety of er, enabling automatic topology learning and dynamic path
devices and applications used by many users around the configuration. Mesh connectivity is established by apply-
globe. The most common standard in WLANs is the well ing multihop mesh techniques to specify a wireless dis-
known IEEE 802.11 which comprises a family of standards tribution system (WDS) building a wireless infrastructure
that each offer different kinds of characteristics. Neither the among nodes. Each node that supports mesh functionality is
infrastructure nor the ad hoc mode made it possible to cov- called a mesh point(MP) and it supports functionalities like
er the demands of usage of WLANs. Demands, like mobility, neighbor discovery, channel selection and association form-
pushed the standards over the edge and the term mesh net- ing with its neighboring MPs. The implementation is based
working was born. Devices no longer have to be in the same on top of the current PHY layer of IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n and
area where an access point is. They can gain access to ser- operates at the 2.4 - 5.0 GHz frequency bands. However,
vices by other nearby access points that denote the same the current routing and MAC techniques limit the WMN
network. Key features like QoS, power management, securi- and its capabilities. Thus, enchancements or new deployed
ty and routing implement existing, new or hybrid techniques techniques have to be implemented by a WMN perspective.
to deploy an integrated mesh network. This article makes a Such a MAC enchancement is the Mesh Determistic Ac-
presentation of the mesh concept and introduces the new cess that is an access method which allows MPs to access
member of the 802.11 family, i.e. 802.11s, and especially the channel at specific times (called MDAOPs) with lower
the concept of Mesh Deterministic Access (MDA). contention that would otherwise be possible[4].

2. Wireless Mesh Networks

1. Introduction
As mentioned earlier, WMNs consist of two types of
Wireless LANs is the key technology to most services, nodes: mesh routers and mesh clients. The difference be-
in combination with propriate devices offered by network tween a conventional router and a mesh router, apart from
providers and manufacturers respectively. However prob- the mesh functionality, is that the latter can achieve the same
lems like coverage area still remain and mesh networking is coverage with lower transmission power through multi-hop
here to solve this problem among others. WMNs are com- communications. As regards to mesh clients, they also have
prised by mesh routers and mesh clients called the nodes[2]. neccesary mesh functions and can thus behave as a router.
Each node has the ability to operate both as a host and as a On the other hand, gateway or bridge functions do not ex-
router that can provide packet forwarding in behalf of an- ist in these nodes. Additionally, mesh clients have only one
other node that is out of range of transmision with its desti- wireless interface.
nation. The scale of the network determines its type which
can be a WLAN, a WMAN or even a WPAN. 2.1. WMNs Architecture
The IEEE 802.11 working group, WG, works on wire-
less mesh networks in the task group, TGs, that produce Three different categories distinguish in the WMNs ar-
the standards for mesh networks. Hence, the wireless mesh chitecture, based on the functionality of the nodes.
standard 802.16a is developed for WMAN, the 802.11s for
WLAN and the 802.15.5 for WPAN[3]. The focus is on • Infrastructure/backbone WMNs
Figur 1. Infrastructure/backbone WMNs. Figur 3. Hybrid WMNs.

The figure 1 above shows an infrastructure/backbone

As the name of the architecture denotes, this is the case
WMN. The dashed and solid lines denote wireless and
where the network comprises by both infrastructure
wired connections respectively. As it can be seen in the
and client mesh networks. The clients can access the
figure, different kinds of clients connect to the mesh
network by other clients or by routers providing im-
routers that form the infrastructure. The radio technol-
proved connectivity and coverage within the WMN.
ogy used by the mesh routers varies significantly. Fur-
thermore, routers apply self-configuring, self-healing
links among themselves to form the backbone net- 2.2. Characteristics of WMNs
work. They can also connect to the internet by gate-
way functions. Conventional clients can connect to the This section describes the characteristics of mesh net-
mesh routers either by using the Ethernet interface or works as the following:
by using the same radio technology as the routers.
• Multi-hop WMN: To provide greater coverage and
• Client WMNs non-line-of-sight (NLOS) among nodes, the multi-hop
function becomes indispensable[5].

• Support for ad hoc networking, and capability of self-

forming, self-healing, and self-organization: These
properties result in enchanced network performance
and gradual growth.

• Mobility dependence on type of mesh nodes: Minimal

mobility of mesh routers but mesh clients can be sta-
tionary or mobile nodes.

• Multiple types of network access: WMNs can sup-

port backhaul access to the Internet and peer-to-peer
Figur 2. Client WMNs. communications[6].

In this type of architecture, no mesh router exists. In- • Dependence of power-consumption constraints on the
stead, conventional devices establish peer-to-peer net- type of mesh nodes: Mesh clients require power effi-
works among them to constitute the actuall network cient protocols in contrast to mesh routers.
performing routing and configuration functions as well
• Compatibility and interoperability with existing wire-
as providing end-user applications to customers. There
less networks: WMNs built based on IEEE 802.11
exists one single radio interface among the devices and
technologies have to be compatible with the IEEE
a packet is forwarded to its destination by hopping
802.11 standards. Additionaly, such networks must be
through devices.
inter-operable with other types of wireless networks,
• Hybrid WMNs e.g. WiMAX, ZigBee[7] and cellular networks.
2.3. Key Functionality In WMNs, it is distinguished two kinds of QoS issues.
Firstly, QoS has to be present both in case of access net-
The section below describes the main functions of work traffic and backbone traffic. This means that call ad-
WMNs[1]. mission control (CAC) has to be present for the first case
and a mechanism to differentiating the two types of traffic.
2.3.1. Mesh Topology Creation Secondly, a mechanism is required obove L2 to guarantee
QoS over multi-hops. The MAC layer can only guarantee a
On activation, an MP searches for potential mesh net- minimum service level for inter-MP traffic.
works present within its coverage area. When such a net- End-to-end Qos is supported by flow control which is
work is found, the MP associates with the network. If no tightly linked with CAC where the former uses flow identi-
network is found, the MP must be able to create a new one. fiers and the latter checks for service-level requirements in
There are two types of network discovery: the active and the packet headers.
passive approach. After network discovery, basic connectiv-
ity of the nodes is maintained within the network. Further- 2.3.5. Power Efficiency
more, beacon messages are send for topology maintenance.
Many devices are battery-driven and that has an effect
2.3.2. Routing on the up-time of a device. In turn, up-time depends on bat-
tery capacity and device power consumption. Power-saving
Routing is a very important feature of WMNs since it mechanisms aim to extend the up-time as much as possible.
allows communication between MPs. The IETF MANET Since a device can do many different things, there should
WG is concetrated on standarizing IP (layer 3) routing pro- also be propriate solutions for each case. Inactive devices
tocol functionality for wireless ad hoc networks. In con- could enter a sleep mode, traffic-forwarding devices could
sideration are taken two types of protocols. These are the have scheduled wake-up mechanisms and so on. Another
proactive and the reactive routing protocols. The former way of dealing with this issue is to adapt transmission pow-
type of protocols is useful in small networks and the lat- er depending on tranmission range.
ter is preferred when the network size is large. Since the Nevertheless, there is a more efficient way used in mesh
size of a mesh network can not be determined, neither type networks called power-aware routing, where network rout-
of protocol can be used. A solution to this problem is to ing paths are oprtimized for power consumption[9].
use a hybrid protocol. Mesh networks can alternatively use
adaptive routing protocols.
3. IEEE 802.11s
2.3.3. Security

As in other wireless networks, security is also a great

issue in mesh mode. To guarantee a safe communication
channel, security measures must be taken. These measures

• Confidentiality and integrity: Data sent by the air in-

terface have to be protected against eavesdroping and
• Unauthorized access: MPs have to authenticate them-
selves first to successfully join a network.
• Denial of service (DoS) attacks: Caused when an MP
misbehaves in routing packets, e.g. as in the case of a
black hole[8].
Figur 4. IEEE 802.11s network architecture
2.3.4. Quality of Service
The proposed network architecture is depicted in fig. 4.
Applications set bounds in parameters like packet loss, The 802.11 TGs defines an extended service set (ESS), usu-
throughput, delay, and jitter in order to work properly. Thus, ally refered to as a mesh network. Every IEEE 802.11-based
QoS mechanisms have to be employed to meet those de- entity (AP or STA) that fully or partially supports mesh
mands. functionality is refered to as a mesh point (MP). Minimal
MP operations include neighbor discovery, channel selec- might be mobile or nonmobile and thus a hybrid rout-
tion, and forming associations with neighbors. A WDS is ing protocol supporting both proactive and on-demand
formed by MPs and mesh links that connect the MPs. This schemes is more suitable for such a network[11]. Thus,
way, the ESS is distinguished from the BSS, defined in the the hybrid scheme uses the ad hoc on-demand vector
legacy IEEE 802.11[10]. MAPs are specific MPs but can (AODV) and the optimized link state routing (OLSR)
act as APs as well. MPPs is another type of MPs that has to reach the goal. To make the routing prototcols more
the ability of interconnecting other WMS with the network robust against link failures, radio aware metrics are
it belongs to. Furthermore, it can act as a bridge/gateway proposed.
of the mesh network and other networks in the DS. Such a
WMN is uniquely identified by a mesh ID assigned to every • Forwarding scheme: The traffic in a WMN consists
MP to represent an ESS. of 4-address data frames. When a MP receives such
frames, it checks for the frame authenticity and the
3.1. Medium Access Coordination Function destination MAC address before forwarding. In the
MAP arrive the 3-address frame which is converted
to a 4-address format and then it is forwarded to its
destination. The support of forwarding multicast and
broadcast traffic is also supported.

3.1.2. Medium Access Coordination

The proposal is to use the enchanced distributed channel

access (EDCA) mechanism as medium access coordination
which is the re-use of previous MAC encahncements, i.e.
802.11e. The MAC mechanisms support congestion con-
trol, power saving, synchronization and beacon collision
avoidance. The proposed mechanisms shall make it possi-
ble to enable multiple channel operations in multiradio or
single radio as well as mixed environments. Furthermore,
there must be compatibility with legacy devices.
Figur 5. 802.11s MCF sublayer Optional MAC enchancements include Mesh Determin-
istic Access (MDA) that is a reservation-based determinis-
The Medium Coordination Function (MCF) components tic mechanism, Common Channel Framework (CCF) that is
are shown in fig. 5. The sublayer is built on top of the PHY a multi-channel operation mechanism, Intra-mesh Conges-
layer where no modifications have been made. The 802.11s tion Control and power management.
MAC sublayer is an amendment to IEEE 802.11 to create
a WDS. This section will cover the most important parts of 3.1.3. Mesh Configuration and Management
Since the deployment of self-configuring paths and links
3.1.1. Mesh Topology Learning, Routing and can be unmanaged, it is required the use of autonomic man-
Forwarding agement modules.
The purpose of management is to ensure a free of prob-
Focused on peer-to-peer discovery of MPs, this service lems network operation. A mesh point that may fail does
set (SS) enables automatic topology learning, establishes not effect the overall network performance but it has to be
links and forms a dynamic data delivery path across MPs. managed anyway.
• Topology discovery and formation: A new candidate
node initially gathers information from neighboring
3.2. Use Cases
nodes either by active scaning (i.e. sending probe mes-
sages) or by passive listening (i.e. by receiving period- 3.2.1. Residential Case
ic beacons). Finally, two peers form a partial or a full
mesh topology by associating with each other. In this model, the primary purposes for the mesh network
are to create low-cost, easily deployable, high performance
• Path selection protocol: Formally, a L2 path selec- wireless coverage throughout the digital home. The mesh
tion protocol is used to handle unicast and broad- network is intended to eliminate RF dead-spots and areas
cast/multicast data delivery. On the other hand, MPs of low-quality coverage. High bandwidth applications tend
to be used but also simple ones, e.g. video streaming and
wireless printers.

3.2.2. Office Case

The objective in the office case is to create low-cost, eas-

ily deployable wireless networks that provide reliable cov-
erage and performance. A wireless mesh LAN becomes
useful in areas where Ethernet cabling does not exist or
is cost prohibitive. Companies reduce their costs in asso- Figur 6. Priority mapping.
ciation with cable and time of installation. Furthermore,
they can benefit also from increase in employee productivi-
ty through expanded connectivity to key network resources. interval of time when a particular QSTA has the right to ini-
tiate transmission. Eack AC behaves like a virtual station: it
3.2.3. Campus / Comamunity / Public Access contends for medium access starting its backoff timer after
Case sensing the medium idle after AIFS, (AIFS being the cor-
responding DIFS in DCF). The rule that applies is that the
Mesh networks can in this case provide connectivity over AC with the lowest AIFS has the higher priority. The differ-
large geographic areas in low cost, higher bandwidth inter- ent parameters are used to give a low-priority class a longer
net access in contrast to the traditional methods and location waiting time[12]. An illustration of the queues is shown in
based services for information and safety purposes. figure 7 and the timing relationship in figure 8.

3.2.4. Public Safety Case

Access to emergency and municipal safety personnel

such as fire, police, and hospital is important if a corre-
sponding incident occurs. The network can be used for
video surveillance, tracking emergency workers with bio-
sensors, voice and data communication between emergecy
personnel and so on.

3.3. Fundamentals of MAC

Figur 7. Implementation model.
EDCA is a mandatory mechanism in 802.11e that is
reused in 802.11s to provide prioritized QoS services. On
the other hand, MDA is an optional mechanism that can be
used in 802.11s. Both are described in the following two
sections below.

3.3.1. EDCA

Enhanced Distributed Channel Access is an extension

of Distributed Coordination Function (DCF). Thus, DCF is
the basis for EDCA. QoS stations (QSTAs) access the medi-
um using 8 different user priorities (UPs). This means that
packets sent by the QSTAs are assigned a priority value, be- Figur 8. The timing relationship for EDCA.
fore entering the MAC. These packets are then mapped to
the four first-in first-out (FIFO) queues,called access cate-
gories (ACs) implemented in EDCA, according to figure 6. 3.3.2. MDA
For each AC, an enhanced variant of the DCF, namel-
ly the enhanced distributed channel access function (ED- In Mesh Deterministic Access (MDA) scheme, involving
CAF), contends for TXOPs using a set of EDCA param- MPs have to support sychronization. MDA sets up time pe-
eters. Transmission opportunity (TXOP) is defined as the riods, called MDAOPs, to prevent MPs of initiating trans-
mission sequences in case they interfere with each oth- Upon MDAOP setup[13] the following packet formats
ers transmissions or receptions. MPs that set up MDAOPs are used.
access the medium by using the MDA access parameters
CWMin, CWMax, and AIFSN within these periods.
A Mesh DTIM interval comprises of MDAOPs, see fig-
ure 9. Such an interval is set up between the MDAOP owner
and the addressing MP. After the MDAOP is set up:
• The MDAOP owner uses CSMA/CA and backoff to
obtain a TXOP using the MDACWmin, MDACWmax,
and MDAIFSN parameters. The ranges of values of the
parameters are identical to those used in EDCA.
• Both the MDAOP owner and the addressed MP adver-
tise the MDAOP. Except the MDAOP owner, all other
MPs should not initiate transmissions during the TX-
OP initiated in the MDAOP. Figur 10. Request/Reply setup frame formats.

At this point it can be stated that every new entity has

a view over the entire mesh network. However, an MDA
Manager exists to allow end-to-end flows using MDA fea-
tures and is responsible for

• Path computation.
• Invoking MDAOP Setup Procedure on node along the
Figur 9. MDAOPs during DTIM. path.

A sender MP has the ability to establish a set of The MDA Manager can make path computation in the
MDAOPs each identified by a unique ID called the MDAOP following two different ways:
Set ID. Such a set id has to be unique for the sending MP,
so that the MDAOP set ID and the senders MAC address • Using Dijkstra algorithm.
uniquely identify an MDAOP set in the mesh. A MDAOP • Using Ford algorithm.
Set ID can also handle set up and teardown of the the entire
set of MDAOPs in an MDAOP set. In conclusion, the MDA does not perform well for the
TXOPs also exist in MDA but since it is obtained by a following reasons.
MP in a MDAOP, it is called MDA TXOP. Such an TX-
OP is required to end within the MDAOP it origianlly was 1. Partial overlapping of MDAOPs.
obtained. 2. Interference with other MDAOPs which are not con-
Neighborhood MDAOP times for a MP are those TX- sidered in Neighborhood Times
RX times that are advertised by neighboring MPs, forming
a set of MDAOPs currently used in the neighborhood. Thus, 3. DTIM fragmentation.
a sender cannot set up new MDAOPs within these times.
Thus, Dynamic Relocation is en enchancement to MDA
Neighbor MDAOP interfering times for a MP in relation
confronting the first two problems mentioned above.
to another MP are the times when the former cannot set up
MDAOPs with the latter. Thus, creating MDAOPs within
these times can and will result in interference. 4. Summary
The MDA access fraction, at a MP, is defined as the ratio
of the total duration of its Neighborhood MDAOP Times"in The article presented the concept of Wireless Mesh Net-
a Mesh DTIM interval to the duration of the Mesh DTIM works and referred to the different implementations of each
interval. It exists to make sure that a new MDAOP set does type. The new amandement of 802.11, i.e. 802.11s, looks
not cause the MAF of another MP to exceed a MAF lim- promising in bringing a new wave in wireless LANs. The
it. If the limit is exceeded, the MDAOP request should be area of implementations is wide and usages in the future
refused. can be meet almost everywhere. We have seen that the basis
for 802.11s in the MAC layer, EDCA, comes from its ances- Comm. Corp. IEEE 802 Plenary, DallasIEEE 802.11s
tor, i.e. 802.11e, and that the PHY layer remains untouched. Tutorial, Overview of the Amendment for Wireless
The optional mechanism MDA showed some weaknesses Local Area Mesh Networking W. Steven Conner, Intel
but the Dynamic Relocation was developed to cover some Corp. Monday, Nov 13, 2006.
of them.
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ihar, Performance Analysis of QoS supported by En-
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