Wireless LAN Configuration Guide, Cisco IOS Release 12.4T
Wireless LAN Overview
Wireless LAN Overview
Last Updated: October 13, 2011
A wireless LAN (WLAN) is, in some sense, nothing but a radio--with different frequencies and characteristics--acting as a medium for networks. The Cisco 800, 1800, 2800, and 3800 series integrated services routers, hereafter referred to as an access point or AP, serve as the connection point between wireless and wired networks or as the center point of a stand-alone wireless network. In large installations, wireless users within radio range of an AP can roam throughout a facility while maintaining seamless, uninterrupted access to the network.
Components of a traditional WLAN network include APs, network interface cards (NICs) or client adapters, bridges, repeaters, and antennae. Additionally, an authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) server (specifically a RADIUS server), network management server (NMS), and "wireless aware" switches and routers are considered as part of an enterprise WLAN network.
Finding Feature Information
Your software release may not support all the features documented in this module. For the latest feature information and caveats, see the release notes for your platform and software release. To find information about the features documented in this module, and to see a list of the releases in which each feature is supported, see the Feature Information Table at the end of this document.
Use Cisco Feature Navigator to find information about platform support and Cisco software image support. To access Cisco Feature Navigator, go to www.cisco.com/go/cfn. An account on Cisco.com is not required.
Purpose of This Guide
This guide provides the conceptual information, configuration tasks, and examples to help you configure and monitor a "wireless-aware" router using the Cisco IOS CLI, which can be used through a console port or Telnet session. You can also configure and monitor your router using the Security Device Manager (SDM) application or Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). SDM comes preinstalled on all new Cisco 850, 870, 1800, 2800, and 3800 series integrated services routers.
Organization of This Guide
This guide is organized into the following modules:
Roaming Wireless Client Devices
If you have more than one AP in your WLAN, wireless client devices can roam seamlessly from one AP to another. The roaming functionality is based on signal quality, not proximity. When a client's signal quality drops, the client device roams to another AP.
WLAN users are sometimes concerned when a client device stays associated to a distant AP instead of roaming to a closer AP. However, if a client's signal to a distant AP remains strong and the signal quality is high, the client will not roam to a closer AP. Checking constantly for closer APs would be inefficient, and the extra radio traffic would slow throughput on the WLAN.
Common Wireless Network Configurations
This section describes the AP's role in three common wireless network configurations. The AP's default configuration is as a root unit connected to a wired LAN or as the central unit in an all-wireless network. The repeater role requires a specific configuration.
Root Unit on a Wired LAN
An AP connected directly to a wired LAN provides a connection point for wireless users. If more than one AP is connected to the LAN, users can roam from one area of a facility to another without losing their connection to the network. As users move out of range of one AP, they automatically associate to the network through another AP. The roaming process is seamless and transparent to the user. The figure below shows APs acting as root units on a wired LAN.
Repeater Unit That Extends Wireless Range
An AP can be configured as a standalone repeater to extend the wireless range of your infrastructure or to overcome an obstacle that blocks radio communication. The repeater forwards traffic between wireless users and the wired LAN by sending packets to either another repeater or to an AP connected to the wired LAN. The data is sent through the route that provides the best performance for the client. The figure below shows an AP acting as a repeater.
Central Unit in an All-Wireless Network
In an all-wireless network, an AP acts as a standalone root unit. The AP is not attached to a wired LAN; it functions as a hub linking all stations. The AP serves as the focal point for communications, increasing the communication range of wireless users. The figure below shows an AP in an all-wireless network.
access point --An AP operates within a specific frequency spectrum and uses an 802.11 standard modulation technique. It also informs the wireless clients of its availability and authenticates and associates wireless clients to the wireless network. An AP also coordinates the wireless clients' use of wired resources. It should be noted that there are several kinds of APs, including single radio and multiple radios, based on different 802.11 technologies.
antenna --An antenna radiates the modulated signal through the air so that wireless clients can receive it. Characteristics of an antenna are defined by propagation pattern (directional versus omnidirectional), gain, transmit power, and so on. Antennas are needed on the APs, bridges, and clients.
client adapter --A PC or workstation uses a client adapter or wireless NIC to connect to the wireless network. The NIC scans the available frequency spectrum for connectivity and associates to the AP or another wireless client. The NIC is coupled to the PC or workstation operating system (OS) using a software driver. Various client adapters are available from Cisco.
EAP --Extensible Authentication Protocol. EAP is a flexible protocol used to carry authentication information. It is defined in RFC 2284.
IEEE --The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers is, among other things, a standards body. IEEE publishes standards for many types of systems, and is well known for its standards on information exchange between computers--from best practices to IT infrastructure to LAN and MAN standards to portable applications standards.
MAC --Media Access Control address. A unique 48-bit number used in Ethernet data packets to identify an Ethernet device, such as an AP or client adapter.
MIC --Message Integrity Check algorithm.
SSID --Service Set Identifier. A unique identifier used to identify a radio network and which stations must use to be able to communicate with each other or with an AP.
TKIP --Temporal Key Integrity Protocol. Developed to fix the problems with WEP. TKIP consists of three protocols: a cryptographic message integrity algorithm, a key mixing algorithm, and an enhancement to the initialization vector (IV).
WEP --Wired Equivalent Privacy. An optional security mechanism defined within the 802.11 standard designed to make the link integrity of wireless devices equal to that of a wired Ethernet.
Cisco and the Cisco Logo are trademarks of Cisco Systems, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. A listing of Cisco's trademarks can be found at www.cisco.com/go/trademarks. Third party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company. (1005R)
Any Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and phone numbers used in this document are not intended to be actual addresses and phone numbers. Any examples, command display output, network topology diagrams, and other figures included in the document are shown for illustrative purposes only. Any use of actual IP addresses or phone numbers in illustrative content is unintentional and coincidental.
© 2011 Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.