Wi-Fi Alliance starts testing draft 802.11n gear

The Wi-Fi Alliance started certification testing on 802.11n fast wireless LAN products

The Wi-Fi Alliance has launched the action phase of its plan to get faster wireless networking products into the market, kicking off certification testing of gear based on a draft version of the IEEE 802.11n standard.

The industry group that popularised wireless LANs expects 802.11n Draft 2.0 products with its seal of approval to be on the market before September. Those routers, access points, clients and other products should work with other certified gear based on the draft standard as well as existing Wi-Fi gear that uses the 802.11a/b/g standards. They'll also need to pass security and multimedia quality tests. Eight labs in Spain, Taiwan, Japan and the US are now testing products, according to the industry group, which has about 300 member companies.

The emerging 802.11n specification, which is more complicated than earlier wireless LAN standards because it involves the use of multiple antennas and a large amount of radio spectrum, has been a tough nut for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to crack. After watching lengthy fights over the proposed standard, the Wi-Fi Alliance last year jumped on Draft 2.0 of the standard as a common ground for vendors to build products that work together. The IEEE is still working on a final 802.11n specification and expects it to be finished in March 2009. There is no guarantee of interoperability between products based on Draft 2.0 and those using the final standard.

Wi-Fi Alliance certification is intended to let consumers buy Draft 2.0 products from different vendors and know they will work together. However, some industry analysts don't expect enterprises to invest in the new generation of technology until the final standard is approved, because they need to be sure they have a wide range of products to choose from over a long period of time.

Both Draft 2.0 and the final standard are intended to run at more than 100Mbps, faster than many wired Ethernet connections. The products now being certified can deliver as much as five times the throughput and twice the range of earlier Wi-Fi gear, according to a Wi-Fi Alliance news release. In addition to working with other Draft 2.0 products, the certified products will comply with the group's Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) security specification and its Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) standard for ensuring high-quality voice, video and gaming.

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Stephen Lawson

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