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WPS helps WDS, but not enough

image U.S. households have grown to include digital cameras, multiple digital music players, multiple cell phones and multiple PCs. But, they only need one base station, right?

Maybe. Years ago, a standard called WDS (Wi-Fi Distribution System) was approved that enabled access points to act as bridges or repeaters to extend a Wi-Fi network. Vendors should have heaped love on WDS because it suddenly opened up households to having multiple access points. And even better (from their perspective) WDS was most likely to work if the base stations came from the same company.

But lack of interoperability was only one of the problems of WDS, which could also involve a serious performance hit. WDS has become less relevant in an age of 802.11n networks with superior range. And WDS has been hard to configure. You have d to enter the MAC addresses of both the “server” and “client” WDS nodes and there has usually been little to no feedback that the access points were linked.

Not surprisingly, Apple got around this by using Bonjour to link WDS access points with two simple check boxes in the AirPort Utility. But now, other companies should be able to approach that level of ease by using Wi-Fi Protected Setup, which uses a button on the router to more easily connect other network products. Even if WPS works for adding WDS repeaters, the tradeoffs and arcane nature of the standard will prevent it from being more of a mainstream consumer phenomenon, though. What we really need is true Wi-Fi mesh networking. I know standards have been kicking around IEEE for a long time, but as far as I know one has yet to be approved.