CWAP 403 – Start >

I will be summarising each chapter on the Certitrek Publishing – Official Study Guide for CWAP 403 Exam.

I’ve learned plenty of concepts from the first chapter – 802.11 – The Protocol. This is one of the chapters which you have to read and learn. One may not learn the contents of this chapter directly while working or experience this in his/her day today. Following the posts should give you a fair idea of what the chapter entails and get close to fulfilling the exam requirements. You still have to go through the book multiple times and revise the concepts discussed in the CWNA exam to fully grasp the knowledge required for this exam.

OSI Layers

(APSTNDP) – For the purpose of our CWAP exam we will be concentrating our efforts on layer 1-4 only. More so we have to aim at learning layers 1 and 2 as IEEE 802.11 is focussed around them.

IEEE 802.3(Ethernet) & 802.11 (WLAN) operate primarily at Layers 1 & 2 of the OSI model. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) operates at Layer 3 & 4.

Layer 4 is typically TCP/UDP. TCP is a connection-oriented protocol that uses a 3-way handshake, whereas UDP is a connectionless protocol typically used in time-sensitive applications where occasionally dropping packets is better than waiting.

Layer 3 is typically IP with the exception of WAN related protocols like HDLC, ATM, Frame Relay, etc.

Layer 2 (Data Link layer) – This is subdivided into MAC(lower) + LLC (upper). Frames are organized and meaningful collection of bits that are prepended and appended to upper-layer data within the network communications. When Network layer 3 sends data to the Data-Link layer (2), the data is handed off to the LLC and becomes known as MSDU (MAC Service Data Unit). The MSDU consists of data payload that contains the IP packet + some LLC data. When LLC sends the MAC service data unit info to the MAC sublayer, the MAC header information gets added in a MAC Protocol Data Unit (MPDU).

Layer 1 (PHY) – Physical Medium can be RF, Light Waves, Fibre cables. Capabilities include encoding, modulation, demodulation, timing & signals. This layer is subdivided into PLCP (Physical Layer Convergence protocol – Upper) & PMD (Physical Medium Dependent). The PLCP sublayer prepares the frame for transmission by taking the frame from the MAC sublayer and creating the PLCP Protocol Data Unit (PPDU).


802.11 Physical Layers

Protocol Year (adopted) Frequency Channel Width (MHz) MIMO PHY
802.11az Late 2021 60 GHz      
802.11ay 2020 60 GHz 8000 MU-MIMO EDMG
802.11ax Late 2019 2.4 or 5GHz 20,40,80, 160 MU-MIMO HEW
802.11ac wave2 2015 5 GHz 20,40,80, 160 MU-MIMO VHT
802.11ac wave1 2014 5 GHz 20,40,80 SU-MIMOVHT
802.11n 2009 2.4 or 5 GHz 20,40 SU-MIMOHT
802.11g 2003 2.4 GHz 20 N/A ERP
802.11a 1999 5 GHz 22 N/A OFDM
802.11b 1999 2.4 GHz 20 N/A HR-DSSS
802.11 Prime 1997 2.4 GHz 22 N/A DSSS

Modulation is the process of imposing bits on a transmission medium. I have detailed the keying methods useful in understanding the basics of Modulation here. Also, refer to mcsindex.com for numbers related to Modulation and Coding. We will be exploring in detail about this in the forthcoming chapters which entail about PHY Layers and Technologies.

Troubleshooting Methods

The industry troubleshooting methods e.g. from Cisco, Microsoft or CompTIA are not tested on the CWAP exam. The CWAP exam objectives list the following troubleshooting actions.

  • Define the Problem
  • Identify the Scale of the Problem
  • Identity Probable Causes
  • Capture and Analyze the Data (Most of the CWAP concentrated here)
  • Observe the Problem
  • Choose appropriate Remedial Steps.
  • Document the Problem and Resolution.

Special Thanks to Rasika as I’ve learned a lot from his blogs.

Summary of the 802.11 Mac Header

Network Layer – IP header is added.
Data Link Layer – MAC header is added.
Physical Layer – PHY header is added.


Data is eventually transmitted as individual bits at the Physical layer.

BIT > 0/1, Octet > Byte of data.
Data Link Layer – LLC (802 based networks), MAC

MAC Service Data Unit > When network layer sends data to the Data Link layer, the data is handed off to the LLC and becomes MSDU

MSDU = IP Packet + Some LLC Data.

Only 802.11 Data Frames carry MSDU – Ratification 802.11n-2009, introduced A-MSDU

MSDU = 2304 Octets, A-MSDU = up to 7935 Octets.

MAC Protocol Data Unit > When the LLC sublayer sends MSDU to the MAC sublayer, the MAC header info is added to identify it.

MPDU = MAC Header + Frame Body(MSDU) + FCS (Trailer)
A-MPDU > transmissions are created by transmitting multiple MPDUs as one PHY frame as opposed to A-MSDU transmissions, which are created by passing MSDUs down the PHY layer as single MPDU.

Physical Layer comprises of PLCP & PMD – PLCP prepares the frame for transmission by taking the frame MAC sublayer and creating the PLCP Protocol Data Unit.

PPDU = PLCP + Frame from Mac Layer.

PLCP Service Data Unit > Pretty much like MPDU at PHY layer.
PLCP = PPDU + PSDU

CWNA – Chapter 2 Summary & Exam Essentials

CWNA Chapter 2 – IEEE 802.11 Standards and Amendments.

“Defined” means the amendment either no longer exists or it was rolled into the existing (or prior versions) 802.11-2007 spec. “Defines” means it is a ratified amendment that will be rolled into 802.11-2011. “Will define” means it is a work in progress and not yet amended.

802.11-1997 (sometimes called 802.11 “prime”) — the original 802.11 specifications included the base functionality along with FHSS and DSSS PHYs.

802.11a — Defined OFDM usage in 5 GHz with data rates up to 54 Mbps.
802.11b —Defined 5.5 and 11 Mbps with HR/DSSS in 2.4 GHz.
802.11c — Defined MAC bridging for 802.11. Was incorporated into 802.1D.

802.11-1999 rolled up 802.11 prime with new enhancements.

802.11d — Defined 802.11 operation in new regulatory domains.
802.11e — Defined QoS
802.11F — Recommended Inter-Access Point Protocol (IAPP) for interoperability of different vendor products. Was not used by anyone and is now withdrawn.

Note: A capital letter designates a recommended practice standalone standard (similar to 802.1X). A lowercase letter designates an amendment to a parent standard. Hence, 802.11F was designed to be a standalone document (and also happened to be a recommended practice), not a part of the full 802.11 standards. This is often a confusing topic in standards naming.

802.11g — Defined ERP PHY, which introduces data rates up to 54 Mbps in 2.4 GHz.

802.11-R2003 rolled up 802.11-1999 and prior amendments, excluding 802.11e.

802.11h — Defined Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) for radar detection and avoidance in some 5 GHz bands. Also defined Transmit Power Control (TPC) for managing client transmit power.
802.11i — Defined security enhancements including TKIP, CCMP, and use of 802.1X with WLANs.
802.11j — Defined 4.9 – 5 GHz operation in Japan.

802.11-2007 rolled up 802.11-R2003 with prior amendments.

802.11k — Defines radio resource management processes for RF data collection and sharing.
802.11l — Due to potential confusion between an “l” (letter) and “1” (number), 802.11l was bypassed.
802.11m — Was used as a maintenance amendment that updated inaccuracies, omissions, and ambiguities.
802.11n — Defines High Throughput (HT) PHY with MCS rates up to 600 Mbps in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
802.11o — For similar reasons as 802.11l, 802.11o was bypassed. ‘Is that an “o” (letter) or a “0” (number)? I don’t know, let’s just skip it.’
802.11p — Defines wireless access for the vehicular environment (WAVE).
802.11q — Due to potential confusion with 802.1Q, 802.11q was bypassed.
802.11r — Defines fast BSS transitions (fast secure roaming). Maybe one of these days we’ll use it.
802.11s — Will define 802.11 mesh internetworking.
802.11T — Specified a way to test wireless performance prediction. Remember, capital letters are recommended practices standalone standards. 802.11T was canceled.
802.11u — Will define internetworking with external networks, such as cellular.
802.11v — Will define enhancements for network management.
802.11w — Defines protected management frames to prevent some security vulnerabilities.
802.11x — 802.11 technologies as a whole are often referred to as 802.11x, so this amendment was bypassed.
802.11y — Defines use of OFDM in 3650-3700 MHz.
802.11z —Defines enhancements to Direct Link Setup, which no one uses.
802.11aa — Will define enhancements to video transport streams.
802.11ab —Was bypassed to avoid confusion with devices using 802.11a and 802.11b PHY technologies, which are often abbreviated as 802.11ab.
802.11ac — Will define Very High Throughput (VHT) with gigabit speeds, building on 802.11n MIMO technology.
802.11ad — Will define short range Very High Throughput (VHT) in the 60 GHz spectrum.
802.11ae — Will define enhancements for QoS management.
802.11af — Will define the usage of Wi-Fi in newly opened TV whitespace frequencies.
802.11ag — Similar to 802.11ab, 802.11ag was skipped to avoid confusion with devices using 802.11a and 802.11g PHY technologies, which are often abbreviated as 802.11ag.
802.11ah — Will define the usage of Wi-Fi in frequencies below 1 GHz. Also used as an expression of Wi-Fi pleasure. 802.11…ah!
802.11ai — Will define FILS (fast initial link setup). Designed to address challenges in high-density environments which a large number of mobile users face.
802.11aj – Will define modifications to the IEEE 802.11ad-2012 amendment’s PHY and MAC layer to provide support to the Chinese Millimeter Wave (CMMW).
802.11ak – Will define amendment to General Link for use in bridged networks.
802.11aq – Will define delivery of network service information prior to the association of stations on 802.11 networks.
802.11ax – Will define HE(High Efficiency). Expected to be next big PHY enhancement to the 802.11 standards. Operate in both 2.4/5GHz.
802.11ay – Will define improvement of an 802.11ad amendment providing faster speeds.
802.11az – TBC

CWNA , IEEE 802.11!

  • Hi IEEE 802.11 Key Concepts

Let’s get started with the IEEE 802.11 Journey synopsis. Standards are defined at physical and mac-sub layer(data-link). We are referring to different ways of transmitting data over the air. Also how our communication signal would deliver information. One of the original ones we’ve come across is FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) and DSSS (Distributed Sequence Spread Spectrum).

In 2007, the IEEE consolidated 8 ratified amendments along with the original standard, creating a single document that was published as the IEEE standard 802.11-2007
The standard covers IEEE standard 802.11-1999, 802.11a.1999, 802.11b-1999, 802.11g-2003,802.11i-2004

802.11b (Sep 1999) is high rate DSSS – Based on 2.4GHz to 2.4835 GHz ISM band
802.11a (Sep 1999) is OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Divisional Multiplexing) would operate in 5GHz frequency.  There are 3 U-NIII (Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure) frequency bands consisting of 12 channels.
802.11b (1999) – High Rate DSSS, operates in 2.4 GHz frequency. OFDM transmission type and supports BPSK (binary phase shift keying) and QPSK (Quadrature PSK) – 1 & 5.5Mbps and 2 & 11 Mbps. 
802.11g (June 2003) – Speeds upto 54Mbps/works similar to 802.11b in 2.4 GHz. Used a new technology called Extended Rate Physical (ERP) – ISM frequency band.
802.11i (Security) – From 1997 – 2004, not much defined in terms of security in the original 802.11 standard. Three key components of security solution – Data Privacy/Data Integrity/Authentication. This amendment defined a RSN (Robust Security Network).
802.11r-2008 (FT)-  Technology is more often referred to as fast secure roaming because it defines faster handoffs when roaming occurs between cells in WLAN using a strong security defined by RSN.
802.11w (Sep 2009) – IEEE Task Group was a way of delivering management frames in a security manner. Preventing the management frames from being able to be spoofed.802.11 – only on 2.4. Uses hi rate DSSS. It actually came out before 802.11a. Enabled 5.5 and 11Mbps data rates. 22MHz wide channels. Today these rates have become legacy rates. 
802.11n (October 2009) – also known as Wi-Fi 4 is an amendment that improves upon the previous 802.11 standards by adding multiple-input multiple-output antennas (MIMO). 802.11n operates on both the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz bands. Support for 5 GHz bands is optional. Its net data rate ranges from 54 Mbit/s to 600 Mbit/s
802.11ac (December 2013) – VTH (Very high throughput, wider channel (20MHz-160MHz) – also known as Wi-Fi 5 is an amendment to IEEE 802.11, published in December 2013, that builds on 802.11n.[28] Changes compared to 802.11n include wider channels (80 or 160 MHz versus 40 MHz) in the 5 GHz band, more spatial streams (up to eight versus four), higher-order modulation (up to 256-QAM vs. 64-QAM), and the addition of Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO). As of October 2013, high-end implementations support 80 MHz channels, three spatial streams, and 256-QAM, yielding a data rate of up to 433.3 Mbit/s per spatial stream, 1300 Mbit/s total, in 80 MHz channels in the 5 GHz band
802.11ax ( Sometime in 2019*)  – IEEE 802.11ax also known as Wi-Fi 6 is the successor to 802.11ac, and will increase the efficiency of WLAN networks. Currently in development, this project has the goal of providing 4x the throughput of 802.11ac at the user layer, having just 37% higher nominal data rates at the PHY layer.  More can be read here

While learning about 802.11 PHYs (Physical) I have come across this extremely useful table from cleartosend podcasts/posts as below