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Next gen wi-fi to be certified 2

The Wi-Fi Alliance – the industry group backing the next generation of the technology – said Tuesday that it plans to certify interoperability of products based on the 802.11n standard from the first half of next year.

The move will mark the first phase in a certification program of the next generation of wi-fi products, with a second phase to bring full alignment with the ratified standard.

The proposed 802.11n standard itself will enable high-performance, next-generation wireless local area networking, supporting speeds of up to 600Mbps with greater range.

But the moves comes after the IEEE has already updated its estimated timeline for ratification of a full 802.11n standard and is now targeting the first quarter of 2008 for final approval. In May, the working group for the 802.11n standard failed to reach the 75 per cent majority vote required to pass the draft.

Wi-fi products implementing features from the draft specification are already in the market and the Wi-Fi Alliance forecast that tens of millions of pre-standard devices will ship in 2007. But this goes against analyst recommendations. Alan Varghese, ABI Research’s principal analyst for wireless semiconductors previously said that although there will be .11n draft chipsets and devices available in the market in 2006, “there will be wide variability between them, and true interoperability between vendors is still wishful thinking.

Gartner has also warned that 802.11n compliant kit should not be used to replace 802.11a/b/g equipment. The analyst reckons existing kit will “be good for at least four more years.”

Nevertheless, the two phase certification scheme proposed by the Wi-Fi Alliance aims to ease concerns over interoperability. The certification marks used for the first phase of the program are to clearly indicate that the certified products are pre-standard, so that consumers will understand that what they are purchasing is not based on a ratified IEEE standard.

“This two-phase approach balances our longstanding commitment to standards-based technology with the current market need for product interoperability certification,” said Wi-Fi Alliance managing director Frank Hanzlik. “While we are committed to supporting a full 802.11n standard when it is available, pre-standard products are reaching a level of maturity and there is enough market uptake that a certification program makes sense for the industry.”

The Wi-Fi Alliance expects the second phase of the program, introduced at the time of final IEEE 802.11n ratification, will support compatibility between wi-fi certified pre-standard products and those certified to the full standard.


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