A wireless distribution system (WDS) is a system enabling the wireless interconnection of access points in an IEEE 802.11 network. It allows a wireless network to be expanded using multiple access points without the traditional requirement for a wired backbone to link them. The notable advantage of WDS over other solutions is it preserves the MAC addresses of client frames across links between access points.
An access point can be either a main, relay, or remote base station. A main base station is typically connected to the (wired) Ethernet. A relay base station relays data between remote base stations, wireless clients or other relay stations to either a main or another relay base station. A remote base station accepts connections from wireless clients and passes them on to relay stations or to main stations. Connections between “clients” are made using MAC addresses.
All base stations in a wireless distribution system must be configured to use the same radio channel, method of encryption (none, WEP, or WPA) and the same encryption keys. They may be configured to different service set identifiers. WDS also requires every base station to be configured to forward to others in the system. WDS may also be considered a repeater mode because it appears to bridge and accept wireless clients at the same time (unlike traditional bridging). However, with this method, throughput is halved for all clients connected wirelessly.