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Tips for WDS Success

How To: Setting up WDS Bridging / Repeating
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But before we forge ahead into the examples, there’s some prep work you’ll need to do to give yourself the best chance of having your WDS setup work the first time. Here are three mandatory and two optional steps to take before putting your APs in bridging mode :

Check that your wireless client can associate and pass data through each AP

Assign a static IP address to each AP

This is good practice in general when dealing with the gear that runs your network. But it’s especially important for APs in WDS networks, since you’ll know where to look for each AP and have one less variable to consider when trying to debug a broken connection. Make sure that you assign the static IPs outside the range of your LAN’s DHCP server or you’ll risk getting a duplicate IP leased at some point... usually when it’s least convenient !

Set all APs to the same (clear) channel

Since all APs in a WDS network need to communicate with each other wirelessly, they need to be on the same channel. For 802.11b and g WLANs, I recommend you use Channel 1, 6, or 11. Whichever channel you choose, make sure it’s not in use by neighboring WLANs, or at least not one right close by. See our When Wireless LANs Collide ! ProblemSolver if you have trouble getting a clear channel.

[Optional] Set each AP to a different SSID

WDS APs know each other by MAC address and could care less what their SSID is set to. On the other hand, wireless clients associate by SSID. Technically, each AP in a WDS network is part of the same Extended Service Set (ESS) and should therefore have the same SSID.

But the roaming algorithms incorporated into most wireless clients don’t "aggressively" roam and tend to stay associated with an AP long after they should, resulting in poor performance. This can be especially frustrating when you’ve gone to the trouble and expense of adding repeaters to your WLAN, and your notebook refuses to use them !

By assigning different SSIDs to your WDS APs, you’ll first have the advantage of being able to see each one, even if you’re using WinXP’s built-in "Zero Config" utility, which doesn’t show multiple APs with the same SSID. You’ll also be able to easily force your client to connect to the closest AP without having to remember its MAC address.

[Optional] Assign a static IP to your wireless clients
I’ve found that it sometimes takes awhile to lease a new IP after associating with an AP. Assigning static IP information to your wireless clients (don’t forget to include gateway and DNS info) gives you one less thing to go wrong when switching association among APs. It also works around the problem that some products have (or at least had !) with properly passing DHCP messages to bridged clients.

In addition to the above, you also need to carefully consider placement of your WDS APs. As with any other wireless LAN equipment, the speed of a WDS link depends primarily on signal strength. Since each WDS "hop" already cuts available throughput approximately in half, you don’t want to further reduce your link speed by spacing your WDS APs too far apart.

You’ll need to experiment to get an combination of range and performance that’s acceptable to you, but don’t expect good link speed if you try to place your repeater near the limit of your current wireless range ! A good compromise is to place your repeater in an area where the link speed (as indicated by your client utility) is 5.5Mbps or better for 11b equipment and 24Mbps or better for 11a or 11g gear, i.e. about half the max transmit rate.

With the preliminaries out of the way, we just need to gather the MAC address information we need and we’ll be on our way !

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  • 0 Hide
    robabrams , May 22, 2010 12:21 PM
    Very good article. I am having some problems of my own with a pair of Sitecomm Wireless routers (WL-312 and WL-610).

    I am going to reset them both back to factory defaults and start again using this guide.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 21, 2011 2:22 AM
    i used a thomson tg585 and a netfaste iad2. WDS "worked" but: many packet loss while pinging and speed is below 10KB/S ! ...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 12, 2011 5:02 PM
    Thank you!

    Great article that answered my questions.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 13, 2012 11:47 PM
    Thanks for the well organized and comprehensive explanation about WDS.
    I like this kind of writing so much.
    (JSuparman-Jakarta)
  • 0 Hide
    knightmurphy , May 7, 2012 8:58 PM
    I simply love you, that's all I have to say.
    I've been wrecking my brains around WDS repeater (1st example) all day. And then I came across your article, and everything became clear. And everything worked on the 1st friggin' try!
    I managed to get my routers working like the 1st scheme (1 main router, one repeater) from 2 different vendors, and not only that, one of the routers is seriously old.
    So many many thanks!

    (In case anyone is wondering, main router = relatively new TL-WR1043ND + repeater router = the ancient 3COM OfficeConnect Wireless 11g Cable/DSL Router. Upgrades both firmwares before attempting)
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 26, 2013 12:59 PM
    Hi,

    is there a way to make a wired connection between the client and the second AP (in your case ASUS)?

    Also should everything be on the same main IP ie 192.168.1.***, because my two access points have preset IPs the one 192.168.1.254 and the second one 192.168.0.254. Should I change them to 192.168.1.250 and 192.168.1.230 for them to work together?
  • 0 Hide
    Anton Kizernis , March 20, 2013 1:44 AM
    Muchas gracias!
  • 0 Hide
    Eugenio Rios , August 30, 2013 4:00 PM
    So, I´m having trouble here... I´ve got: a) a gateway router with DHCP activated: DIR-655 from D-Link (192.168.0.1). b) AP TP-Link TL-WR741ND (192.168.0.2), and c) another AP, same brand (192.168.0.3). Both AP's are connected wirelessly to the Gateway, DHCP turned off, all have the same SSID, same password, same channel, yet, I can´t seem to get them to work as if it were just one SSID, my smartphone gets authentication error and my computer sees three ssid's with the same name, different signal strengths. What can I do to roam freely in the house with just one SSID? what am I missing? Thank you for this guide, it´s awesome.
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