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Tuesday, 11 October 2011 18:35

New WiFi standards support mesh networks & promise higher data rates

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The IEEE has published two important new standards for WiFi mesh networking and peer-to-peer communication between WiFi devices. It says the latter could produce a 10 fold increase in the data rate between connected devices.

The two standards are IEEE 802.11z Wireless LAN: Extensions to Direct Link Setup and IEEE 802.11s

WiFi devices operating to the IEEE 802.11 standard are usually connected to an access point in a star topology. Data moving from one of the clients to another is transferred though the access point. The 802.11z amendment defines mechanisms that allow devices to set up direct links with each other while also remaining associated with the access point. These mechanisms are referred to as Tunnelled Direct Link Setup (TDLS). Under the new standard a direct link is set up automatically, without need for user intervention, while the connection with the AP is maintained.

The standard is applied to client devices only; so new WiFi devices supporting the standard will be able to implement direct communication even when connected to old access points.

According to the IEEE, the new standard provides a number of significant benefits. "IEEE 802.11z reduces the number of times a packet gets transmitted over the air from two to one. The shorter transmission times on TDLS direct links will provide power savings as well. If client devices are capable of operating at data rates or in frequency bands not supported by the access point they can do so'¦

"Client-to-client transmissions will often occur at much higher data rates [resulting] in shorter transmission times and client device power savings'¦TDLS also allows the use of enhanced capabilities that may not be supported by the access point, so the connection speed between the devices will typically be much faster via a TDLS direct link."

Th IEEE says: "Depending on the specific situation, a 10-fold increase of the data rate between the devices is well within the realm of possibilities with TDLS. In addition, eliminating the hop through the AP significantly reduces the latency of the connection between the client devices."

CONTINUED

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IEEE 802.11s is set of protocols that enable WiFi devices to operate in a mesh, multi-hop network topology. According to IEEE, "Multi-hop mesh networks are increasingly important because they allow data destined for a particular device to pass through or be relayed by neighbouring devices, thereby greatly extending coverage and range."

IEEE 802.11s-capable devices establish links with each other without being assigned specific roles or relying on a central authority to configure the mesh. "A unique routing and forwarding protocol allows IEEE 802.11s-capable devices to dynamically deliver content through other IEEE 802.11s-capable devices," IEEE says.

"Data traffic is seamlessly rerouted in case of a device failure or unavailability, even if only temporarily, which improves reliability of communications between devices."

It adds: "The protocols described in the amendment are fully compatible with existing IEEE 802.11 protocols. In many cases, it is expected that this amendment can be implemented as a software-only solution, requiring no changes to existing IEEE 802.11 chipsets or hardware. This feature allows existing products to be field-upgraded to support these new capabilities and to provide the important new mesh features and benefits to the installed base of 802.11 devices."

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