Need an 802.11n Beacon Frame?

Standards are well and good but usually contain a zillion options nobody ever implements. The 802.11 ‘draft-n’ standard is no exception. To find out which options different vendors have actually implemented, the best thing to do is to trace the beacon frames of ‘draft-n’ access points. A couple of months ago I described how to trace WLAN frames here.

If you are looking for beacon frames traced by other people to compare functionalities with your own ‘draft-n’ access point at home, take a look here. The beacon frame traced by ‘swordfish’ seems to be from a Linksys access point, judging from the first three bytes of the MAC address which identifies the manufacturer of the device. So here are the main ‘draft-n’ features this access point supports taken from the ‘HT Capability‘ (HT = high throughput) parameter (element ID 45):

  • 20 MHz and 40 MHz channel operation support
  • Greenfield mode support, i.e. protection mechanisms used to allow 802.11b and 11g devices to be part of the network can be switched off.
  • the access point has two independent transmitters and supports 2 spatial MIMO streams.
  • All of the other gazillion options such as short guard interval, STBC diversity, beamforming, MIMO power save, advanced coding, MCS feedback, antenna selection, etc. etc. are not supported.

The current mode of operation according to the ‘HT Information‘ parameter (element ID 61) erroneously called ‘Additional HT Capability’ in the trace):

  • The access point currently operates in 20 MHz mode only (either set by user or due to other networks using the same channel)
  • The access point runs in greenfield mode, i.e. only 11n devices have joined the network

Also interesting to see that the size of beacon frames has dramatically increased. Current 11g access points send beacon frames with a length of around 110 bytes. This ‘draft-n’ beacon frame has a length of 228 bytes!

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