11.7 Services Provided in the IEEE 802.11 Family
In this section, we shall provide an overview of the various services expected of an IEEE 802.11 system. Some services are required in all
11.7.1 Station Services
Services that are common to all stations are referred to as station services. All IEEE 802.11 family devices, including the access point, will execute these services, and it does not matter whether it is the infrastructure mode or independent mode. Stations services support establishing basic connectivity to wireless LANs, which helps provide functions similar to that of plugging into a wired LAN port.
There are four station services defined in IEEE 802.11 systems.
are two station services similar to the function of physically connecting to the wired network like the LAN. These two services allow the IEEE 802.11
Two other station services are privacy and data delivery. Privacy provides the security of using a wired LAN network within a building by encrypting data over the air. Data delivery services ensure that data are transported reliably over the wireless medium.
11.7.2 Distributed Station Services
The other category of services provided in the IEEE 802.11 family has no equivalent in wired LANs. This is known as the distribution system services (DSS). There are five different services, and these services are provided across a distribution system mentioned earlier. This requires the presence of an access point as one of the key elements, which communicates with the distributed system.
The five different DSSs are association, disassociation, distribution, integration with wired network like LANs, and reassociation. The wireless station uses the association and disassociation services to gain access and remove access to WLAN services. Distribution is the process of using the backbone distributed system to update information about wireless stations and deliver packets to the appropriate destination.
Integration with wired network like LANs is a feature to connect the wireless systems to the wired network. For example, users may be using an IEEE 802.11 family system and may send messages to their colleagues who are connected to the wired LAN like the Ethernet. Special functions called portals may exist as part of the access point. These portals are used to convert between IEEE 802.11 frames and the wired LAN
Figure 11-7. The entire IEEE 802.11 architecture, including connectivity to IEEE 802.3 network.
11.8 IEEE 802.11 Family Operations
This section examines the operations of an IEEE 802.11 family device in an infrastructure BSS. Although very similar mechanisms exist for the independent BSS as well, this section focuses on the more ubiquitous infrastructure BSS, or just simply BSS. To obtain service in a WLAN environment, each station has to execute a few functions or services as noted in the IEEE 802.11 standards.
The scenario explored in this section is an IEEE 802.11 family user who wishes to use his or her device to access a Web server in the Internet. In the wired LAN, when properly configured, the
Figure 11-8. IEEE 802.11 family operations.
11.8.1 The First Step: Synchronization and Scanning
The IEEE 802.11 family station (
This periodic information is referred to as a
Another method is known as
where the 802.11 station proactively looks for access points in the neighborhood by sending probe requests. The access points that hear these probe requests respond with a probe response that contains broadcast information similar to the beacon
WEP provides the second mechanism of authentication, which uses the shared key mechanism. The access point challenges the 802.11 station, and if the challenge is successful, this results in the 802.11 station being authenticated. The IEEE 802.11 family allows a station to authenticate with multiple BSSs if necessary to facilitate roaming from one BSS to another. If products with Wi-Fi certifications are purchased, shared key authentication is required and the shared keys need to be configured in the 802.11 station and the access point(s).
Until this point, the presence of the 802.11 station is unknown to the 802.11 distributed system. To enable routing of packets to the appropriate destination, once the authentication process is completed, the 802.11 station needs to associate with the access point. This creates a logical link between the 802.11 station and the access point. If this association is accepted, the access point forwards the MAC address of the 802.11 station (which was supplied in the association request from the 802.11 station) to the distributed system.
The distributed system makes a note of the association of the 802.11 station in a specific BSS for routing of packets within the ESS. The access point sends an association response with an association identifier (AID) that is used by the 802.11 station for further communication with the access point.
11.8.4 Data Transfer
The data itself may be sent to someone within the same BSS or someone in the same ESS or outside to others as well. The distributed system helps the AP route packets to the appropriate destination. When the AP receives a packet from the 802.11 station, it checks to see if the destination is in the same BSS.
If the packet is in the same BSS, the AP forwards it to the BSS. If the destination is another BSS or the Web server, using the information provided by the distributed system, the AP forwards the data packets to another BSS or a portal to send it over the wired network.
11.8.5 Reassociation Process
One of the unique features of the IEEE 802.11 family is the ability to roam from one BSS to another in the infrastructure mode. This is referred to as roaming, where the 802.11 station may move from one BSS to another. The process of registering or establishing a new logical link with another BSS is referred to as reassociation.
The reassociation process occurs due to the movement of the 802.11 station from one access point to another. It may also occur due to changes in the radio environment or due to the increased load in the initial access point, known as load balancing. This process of reassociation allows extended coverage needed for enterprise as well as public WLAN operators that provide citywide or even larger coverage.
The reassociation process helps refresh the distributed system with the latest location of 802.11 station. The new access point receives the reassociation request message and, if allowed access,
The new access point contacts the old access point to remove old associations and obtain any queued packets. Although the mechanisms are not standardized for two access points to communicate with each other, working groups in the IEEE such as the 802.11f are working on the Inter-Access Point Protocol (referred to as IAPP) to enable a communication mechanism across multivendor access points.
11.8.6 Moving Out of Coverage of an ESS
The 802.11 station may eventually move out of coverage of one ESS, which consists of a few BSSs for providing extended coverage. When 802.11
The IEEE 802.11 family does not provide any standard mechanisms for movement across ESSs. Higher-level protocols like mobile IP may be used to forward packets to the new ESS if required. If mobile IP is not implemented, the 802.11 station may at a minimum acquire a new BSS in the new ESS by starting the whole process of scanning, selection of a new BSS, authentication, and association as described earlier. It may also use DHCP to obtain IP addresses if needed.