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Introduction to WLANs

AirTight Networks, Inc. 339 N. Bernardo Ave, #200 Mountain View, CA 94043

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Presentation Outline
WLAN Fundamentals
Technology Positioning Technical Basics Typical Applications Standards

Key Issues in WLAN deployments

Security Network planning and management QoS

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What is WLAN
WLAN (Wireless LAN or also called Wi-Fi) is a wireless version of the Ethernet Suitable for indoor/local wireless coverage
Typical range under 40 meters Range highly dependent on the space layout

Optimized for packet based communication, e.g., Internet Protocol (IP) Transmission speed
Upto 11 Mbps for 802.11b Upto 54 Mbps for 802.11a or 802.11g

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WLAN is Open Technology

Anyone can build and sell WLAN equipment as long as
Power radiation regulations are obeyed

Interoperability standards are mature and openly available (IEEE 802.11 and WiFi Alliance) No need for spectrum license to operate WLAN
WLAN operates in 2.4 GHz (b, g) or 5 GHz (a) unlicensed bands

Openness of technology is a blessing as well as a liability!

Compare Internet with telephone (fixed and mobile) networks

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WLAN Already a Commodity

Variety of WLAN equipment is already available in the marketplace
Access point, PCIMCA cards for laptops, bridges for desktops WLAN built in laptops, PDAs, Mobile phones WLAN chipsets WLAN related softwares

WLAN available for enterprise, domestic and public applications

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WLAN Market Projections are Explosive

Forecast Sales of Wi-Fi Equipment (Source: InfoTech Trends)

Worldwide WLAN Infrastructure Shipments (Source: Gartner)


Millions of Units
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005

5 4 3 2 1 0

2 1

WLAN Growth Drivers

Convenience & Flexibility Productivity Gains Low Cost Embedded WLAN

Source: Pyramid Research

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20 01 20 02 20 03 20 04 20 05 20 06 20 07

Typical WLAN Applications

Wireless Office
Wireless Internet connectivity, VoIP

Wireless Home
Laptops, entertainment systems, appliances

Public hot-spots
Wireless Internet connectivity in malls, coffee shops, libraries, airports

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WLAN Technical Physical Layer

Transmission Method
Spread spectrum (DSSS) for 11 Mbps 802.11b in 2.4 GHz band Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) for 54 Mbps 802.11g in 5 GHz band OFDM for 54 Mbps 802.11a in 5 GHz band

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MAC Layer
Manages access of multiple wireless stations to shared wireless medium
CSMA/CA (Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance)

Assists in security over the wireless link

Encrypt all wireless communication Authenticate clients before granting access

Assists in association management

Binding client identity of access point Portability, mobility

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Operation of CSMA/CA Protocol






defer defer

Frame Frame




Only one device can transmit at a time, else packet collision occurs Immediate access when medium is sensed free >= DIFS period When medium is not free, defer until the end of current frame + DIFS period Begin backoff procedure
Choose a random number in (0, CWindow) Sense medium to determine if there is activity during each slot Decrement backoff time by one slot if no activity is detected during that slot

Suspend backoff procedure if medium is determined to be busy at anytime during a backoff slot Resume backoff precedure after the end of current frame transmission
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WLAN Network Architecture (1/2)

Basic Service Set (BSS): a set of stations which communicate with one another

Ad hoc network

Infrastructure Mode

Only direct communication possible No relay function

Stations communicate with AP AP provides connection to wired network (e.g. Ethernet) Stations not allowed to communicate directly

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WLAN Network Architecture (2/2)

ESS: a set of BSSs interconnected by a distribution system (DS)

Local Area Network (e.g .Ethernet)

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Typical Connection Procedure

1) Authentication exchange
Client proves its identity to AP Client binds its identity to AP Data communication may continue 2) Association exchange

3) Encrypted data exchange

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Encryption on Wireless Link

Initial attempts to provide encryption on wireless link were huge failure!
WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy) turned out to be cryptographically weak WEP is a stream cipher Slowed down adoption of WLAN, especially in enterprise applications

WPA (Wireless Protected Access) was created as enhancement

Backward compatible with WEP-based WLAN hardware Cryptographically much stronger than WEP Also called TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol)

Future is AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)

Cryptographically strong Needs specialized hardware AES is block cipher

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WLAN Standards
IEEE makes WLAN standards IEEE 802.11
MAC layer

IEEE 802.11i
Encryption techniques WPA, AES Authentication techniques 802.1x

IEEE 802.11e
QoS over wireless link

IEEE 802.11f
Seamless handoffs between access points

WiFi Alliance drives interoperability of equipment based on IEEE 802.11 standards

E.g. WiFi Certified logo

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