An ad hoc wireless network is when two wireless devices communicate in a peer-to-peer (P2P) manner without using APs or wireless routers. For example, a client workstation with wireless capability can be configured to operate in ad hoc mode enabling another device to connect to it. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct are examples of ad hoc mode.

Note: The IEEE 802.11 standard refers to an ad hoc network as an independent basic service set (IBSS).

The figure displays a summary of ad hoc mode.

A variation of the ad hoc topology is when a smart phone or tablet with cellular data access is enabled to create a personal hotspot. This feature is sometimes referred to as Tethering. A hotspot is usually a temporary quick solution that enables a smart phone to provide the wireless services of a Wi-Fi router. Other devices can associate and authenticate with the smart phone to use the Internet connection. The Apple iPhone refers to this as the Personal Hotspot feature, while Android devices refer to as either Tethering or Portable Hotspot.