Wi-Fi group launches full 11n certification

The Wi-Fi Alliance is also working on a device-to-device specification for next year

The Wi-Fi Alliance is launching a certification program based on the completed IEEE 802.11n standard on Wednesday and looking toward a future peer-to-peer specification it is developing on its own.

Testing has now begun in the "Certified n" program, which succeeds the Wi-Fi Certified 802.11n draft 2.0 program that the industry group began two years ago. The testing begins with two labs but will expand to 13 locations within the next few weeks.

The 802.11n specification took so long to complete that in 2007 the Wi-Fi Alliance began certifying products for compliance with a draft version of the standard and interoperability with other draft-based equipment. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers finally formalized the standard earlier this month.

As it announced in July, the Wi-Fi Alliance isn't changing its fundamental test now that the standard is complete, so any product already certified under the draft version can use the new "Certified n" logo. But once a product has been modified, the vendor is expected to have it re-certified, as is the usual practice, said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The new program also adds certification for a few new capabilities. Equipment can be certified as "dual-stream" or "multi-stream" depending on whether it supports either two or three streams. Multiple streams, which can boost performance, can be created with the multiple antennas provided for in 802.11n. More than three streams are possible under 802.11n, but the Alliance is only testing for two or three at this time, Davis-Felner said.

The group has also set up testing for other optional features, including the following:

- packet aggregation, a technique designed to reduce the amount of overhead required for data transfers,

- "channel coexistence" measures, which allow a device to use two adjacent 20MHz channels in the 2.4GHz band without interfering with other networks,

- and space-time block coding, a mechanism for improving reliability, which prevents a client that can only use one spatial stream from slowing down a network that uses multiple streams.

When vendors have their products certified for the optional features, they will be able to add taglines to the 11n certification label, Davis-Felner said.

The group's next major initiative will be developing a specification for Wi-Fi clients to communicate without an access point. It should let users link up two devices quickly and easily, Davis-Felner said. For example, a user could walk up to a Wi-Fi printer with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and print out a document, she said. It could also help with consumer electronics tasks, such as sending photos from a mobile phone to a TV.

These setups will only require one device with the new capability, so thousands of existing products could automatically participate, Davis-Felner said.

Letting client devices talk to each other without a LAN could expand the scope of Wi-Fi into new areas and product types that ship in vast numbers, she said.

"This is really where the industry is going ... from a product standpoint," Davis-Felner said.

The group is writing its own specification rather than waiting for the IEEE, which has led the way on most new standards the Wi-Fi Alliance has supported. The Alliance aims to launch a certification program for the new capability in the middle of next year.

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