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What is a Wireless Distribution System?

By K'Lee Banks
Updated May 16, 2024
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A wireless distribution system (WDS) is a connection linking multiple access points within a single wireless network. Its most common use is to extend coverage within larger office spaces that are not situated within a convenient distance of one another. Benefits of a wireless distribution system include cost effectiveness and flexibility. Once an access point (AP) is in place, installing a wireless distribution system merely requires a reconfiguration of the AP, rather than the purchase of additional software. Expanding the wireless coverage creates a more flexible and convenient network.

The components necessary for a wireless distribution system to work correctly are the relevant computers and a router or modem. A WDS typically requires two base stations: the main WiFi station and the remote station. Sometimes, depending on personal preference, an individual may add a relay base station. Whether using two or three base stations to set up a wireless distribution system, the sequence for configuring or reconfiguring the system is to start with the main base station, followed by the relay station if one is used, and then the remote station.

Wireless bridging is the act of connecting various components within one wireless network, or connecting two or more wireless networks. Regardless of its location, a wireless distribution system needs the wireless bridging. In other words, the WDS may require connections between different locations in one building, or between different physical locations from one building to another. The primary access point from which the Internet connection derives is the source, while the bridged connection is the destination.

Wireless repeating provides the option to extend the range of an existing wireless distribution system. Strategically placing a wireless repeater can strengthen the WDS signal. The best placement would be at a halfway point between the wireless router, modem, or access point, and the computer itself.

A related essential consideration when setting up and configuring a wireless distribution system is its security from bandwidth theft or hackers. The individual or businessperson who sets up a WDS typically wants it accessible to only a select group of people. In order to restrict access to only those people, it is necessary to secure the WDS through either a wireless encryption protocol (WEP) or wireless protected access (WPA) protocol. WPA and WPA2 are actually the newer and more secure protocols. This step is necessary because even though routers have firewalls built in to restrict access to computers themselves, the firewalls do not protect WiFi signals and their related networks from unauthorized access.

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