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How To: Setting up WDS Bridging / Repeating

WDS Interoperability

As I noted in the previous section, detailed specifications for WDS don’t exist, though this may change if an IEEE study group formed at the beginning of 2004 evolves to "task group" status. In the meantime, it’s up to manufacturers to worry about the interoperability of their products, but they have no real incentive to help you mix their products with those of other vendors.

As a result, manufacturers usually include weasel-words somewhere in their product documentation that says that bridging and repeating features will work only with their own products. And even if you don’t find WDS interoperability disclaimers, good luck trying to get support from any vendor for a problem that involves any other vendor’s product !

Fortunately, many WDS-enabled 802.11g products are based on Broadcom’s wireless chipset, so there is somewhat of a de-facto WDS standard in their common software code base. But most manufacturers put different user interfaces between you and that common code - which isn’t guaranteed to be the same version from product to product.

The gist of all this is that products from different vendors with WDS bridging / repeating features are not guaranteed to work with each other ! Hell, in some cases you might not even be able to get WDS-based products from the same vendor to play together, because they may actually be manufactured by different OEM / ODMs.

But fortunately again, time - and a few driver / firmware revision cycles - have improved the chances for getting WDS-enabled products from multiple vendors to play nice-nice with each other. The main barrier that remains is the different terminology used by vendors in their bridging / repeating user interfaces. Getting over that hurdle, though, is best done by example, which we’ll do shortly.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me say it again : WDS-based products from different manufacturers are not guaranteed to work together. At least for the forseeable future, your best chance of success (and for support in case something goes wrong) is to use the same product from the same manufacturer in WDS-based networks. If you can’t use the same product, at least buy from the same vendor so that you have some leverage in case you get stuck with products that don’t work together.