Limitations of Ad Hoc Mode Wireless Networking

Should you use infrastructure mode instead?

Blue High Speed internet Connection moving outside of buildings

John Lamb / Getty Images

Wi-Fi wireless networks run in either of two alternative modes, called "infrastructure" and "ad hoc" mode. Ad hoc mode lets a Wi-Fi network function without a central wireless router or access point. While they are a viable alternative to infrastructure mode in a few situations, ad hoc networks suffer from several key limitations that require special consideration.

Limitations of Ad Hoc Mode Wireless Networking

Before attempting to use ad hoc mode wireless connections, consider the following limitations:

  1. Security: Wi-Fi devices in ad hoc mode offer minimal security against unwanted incoming connections. For example, ad hoc devices cannot disable SSID broadcast like infrastructure mode devices can. Attackers generally will have little difficulty connecting to your ad hoc device if they get within signal range.
  2. Signal strength monitoring: The normal operating system software indications seen when connected in infrastructure mode are unavailable in ad hoc mode. Without the ability to monitor the strength of signals, maintaining a stable connection can be difficult, especially when the ad hoc devices change their positions.
  3. Speed: Ad hoc mode often runs slower than infrastructure mode. Specifically, Wi-Fi networking standards like 802.11g require only that ad hoc mode communication supports 11 Mbps connection speeds: Wi-Fi devices supporting 54 Mbps or higher in infrastructure mode will drop back to a maximum of 11 Mbps when you run them as ad hoc.