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. This is mandatory for certain application such as a wireless Point of Sales system as the handheld terminals need to authenticate with the POS server via its MAC address.
All devices in a wireless distribution system (WDS) must be configured to use the same radio channel, method of encryption (none, WEP, or WPA) and the same encryption keys. WDS also requires every device to be configured to forward to others in the system by entering the corresponding MAC addresses in a table called the WDS Link Settings in the below diagram.
WDS may also be considered a repeater mode because it appears to bridge and accept wireless clients at the same time. However, with this method, throughput is halved for all clients connected wirelessly.
Compatibility between different brands or different models of the same brand of Access Point is not guaranteed. It is recommended that the WDS network be created using the same models of the same brand for maximum compatibility.