I recently made the leap and replaced my existing 802.11g D-Link wireless router with a new Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n base station. Despite not having a single 802.11n device on my network, I was eager to use some of the other advertised features. Of course, everyone knows about the USB Disk Drive sharing, USB Printer sharing and increased wireless 802.11n speeds, but I was intrigued with a new feature that I have not heard anything about before.
Wireless Distribution System, also known as WDS, enables you to chain together multiple access points to extend the range of your network. WDS is not an Apple specific technology and a lot of other base stations support it. I’ll be discussing my WDS experiences with my two Apple Airports, the new extreme and my old express.
A quick note about WDS and how it’s different from simply extending the range of your wireless network. While most access points can already extend the range of your wireless network, WDS allows you to extend your wireless network range and enables you to create a bridge using your second router / access point.
So, for example, let’s say you have several consumer electronics devices in your living room, but your router is in your office. With WDS, you could use a second access point to connect to your wifi network then connect a hub to your second access point. That would allow you to hook up any number of wired devices to your network.
The boost in signal strength is also very nice. I’ve had some devices go from 60% signal strength to almost 95% signal strength. The difference in performance is noticeable.
Overall, if you have more than access point, WDS gives you flexibility and performance that simply extending your wireless network range doesn’t. Remember, this isn’t a Apple specific thing. So if you have a recent router from DLink, Linksys or NetGear, check out your admin pages to see if it supports WDS.
1 ) Extends your wireless network range, providing better performance and faster speeds.
2 ) Allows you to connect remote islands of networked devices to your wireless network.
3 ) Allows you to create more than one relay for your wireless network. So you could chain together three or more access points to REALLY extend your network range.
1 ) Must set your routers to use a specific channel. This disables your routers ability to automatically adjust your channel based on signal noise.
2 ) Manually setting up WDS involves knowing the MAC address for the access points you want to use beforehand. You must setup each access point to either be a WDS main, WDS relay, or WDS remote. Normally changing theses settings involve a router restart.