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With the increasing development of IEEE 802.11 based wireless local area network (WLAN) devices, large-scale multi-cell WLANs with a high density of users and access points (APs) have emerged widely in various hotspots. Providing resilient data transmission has been a primary challenge for scaling the WLANs because the high density of users and APs results in too many collisions. In this paper, we analyze and point out the defect of the single association mechanism defined in IEEE 802.11 on transmission reliability from a network perspective. Then, we propose a "multi-AP" architecture with which a MAC layer device called an AP controller (AC) is employed to enable each user to associate and cooperate with multiple APs. In this way, the users can benefit from the diversity effect of multipaths with independent collisions and transmission errors. This paper concentrates on the theoretical analysis of performance comparison between the proposed ldquoMulti-APrdquo architecture and that in IEEE 802.11. Extensive simulation results show that the proposed ldquomulti-APrdquo architecture can obtain much better performance in terms of the throughput per user and the total throughput, and the performance gain is position dependent. Moreover, the unfairness issue in traditional WLANs due to capture effect can be alleviated properly in the ldquomulti-APrdquo framework.