NOTE: this page is for archival only, see the note at the end of the page.


Terms we use throughout the wiki you should become familiar with


BSS stands for Basic Service Set. The coverage of an access point is called a BSS.


CLI stands for Command Line Interface. These are utilities you can run in the console or terminal emulator.


FullMAC is a term used to describe a type of wireless card where the MLME is managed in hardware. You would not use mac80211 to write a FullMAC wireless driver.


git-describe is a git command. It outputs something like this:


The first part is the tag for the current release. The second part is the number of patches which have been applied since the tag was applied. The last part, after the first g is the SHA1 commit ID of the last commit applied.


IBSS stands for Independent Basic Service Set. Its basically Ad-Hoc mode. See

Information Element

An Information Element (IE) is a part of management frames in the IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN protocol. IEs are a device's way to transfer descriptive information about itself inside management frames. There are usually several IEs inside each such frame, and each is built of Type-length-value (TLVs).

The common structure of an IE is as follows:

 ←  1  �' ←  1   �' ←     1-255     �'
| Type  | Length |     Data        |

Whereas the vendor specific IE looks like this:

 ←  1  �' ←  1   �' ←        4        �' ←  1-251   �'
|  221  | Length |        OUI        |     Data   |


iw is a new nl80211 based CLI configuration utility for wireless devices.


MLME Stands for Media Access Control (MAC) Sublayer Management Entity. MLME is the management entity where the Physical layer (PHY) MAC state machines reside. Examples of states a MLME may assist in reaching:

  • Authenticate
  • Deauthenticate
  • Associate
  • Disassociate
  • Reassociate
  • Beacon
  • Probe

mac80211's MLME management implementation is currently handled by net/mac80211/ieee80211_sta.c. This handles only the STA MLME


physical-layer controller


SoftMAC is a term used to describe a type of wireless card where the MLME is expected to be managed in software. mac80211 is a driver API for SoftMAC wireless cards, for example.


SSID stands for Service Set IDentifier. The SSID is a code attached to all packets on a wireless network to identify each packet as part of that network. The code consists of a string of 1-32 octets (usually represented as case sensitive alphanumeric characters).

Station (STA)

Station (or STA) is the generic term for a device with a radio that can communicate with other stations in a wireless network. Common forms of a station are access points (AP), computers, or phones.


WE stands for Wireless-Extensions - the old driver API and user <�"> kernel communication transport.


Wireless PHY.

Terms Needing Definitions

Access Point (AP)




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