Wireless Ether Serial Links
August 12, 2012

What are Ad Hoc and Infrastructure Networks?

LAVA’s wireless serial device servers (WiFi ESLs) can operate in Ad Hoc or Infrastructure modes. These two modes are fundamentally different, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Ad Hoc Networks

The Latin expression “ad hoc” translates into English as “for this,” a translation that loosely suggests what ad hoc networks are: networks set up for a single simple purpose. In their simplest form, Ad Hoc networks are peer-to-peer connections between two wireless devices capable of operating in Ad Hoc mode. The two devices have a direct wireless connection to each other, with no intervening wireless devices (or “infrastructure”) such as wireless access points or routers.

Additionally, multiple Ad Hoc devices sharing the same SSID (“Service Set Identifier”) can be on the same Ad Hoc network, extending the concept from a one-to-one network to a multi-node system of connections.

Ad Hoc networks can be set up simply and easily with no need for a pre-existing wireless network, or for additional network hardware beyond the nodes in the network itself. Ad Hoc networks offer low cost networking as well. Disadvantages of Ad Hoc networks include generally shorter working ranges than those of more highly-powered Infrastructure networks, decreasing performance as the number of devices in an Ad Hoc network increases, and no bridge to wired networks. Another disadvantage of conventional Ad Hoc networks is that they do not implement the strongest levels of security now available.

Infrastructure Networks

Infrastructure networks are collections of wireless devices attached to an intermediate piece of network infrastructure, typically an access point, router, or PC running access point software. A WiFi ESL in Infrastructure mode becomes a wireless part of a larger Local Area Network (LAN).

Advantages of Infrastructure networks include greater power and distance than most Ad Hoc networks, greater scalability and stability, and better security. These advantages come at the cost of greater expense to set up, and of reduced flexibility.

Ad Hoc and Infrastructure networks

Ad Hoc and Infrastructure networks

What does this mean for wireless serial device servers? For one thing, it means that a WiFi ESL in Ad Hoc mode is an extremely simple and effective means of adding a serial port to a laptop, with no need for USB-to-serial, hard wired Ethernet-to-serial connection, or a wireless router. For another, in Infrastructure mode, WiFi ESLs offer all the advantages of wired networked serial ports: simplicity, reliability, and configurability.

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