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August 29, 2006

WiFi Alliance to Pre-Certify Pre-Standardized 802.11n Gear

By Robert Liu, TMCnet Executive Editor

In an effort to unify a new draft specification (and perhaps clear up some confusion) for faster WiFi (News - Alert), the WiFi Alliance on Tuesday announced that it will certify interoperability of products based on IEEE 802.11n, a developing standard that hasn’t yet been fully ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The decision by the WiFi Alliance, which represents more than 275 member companies that promote the growth of wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs), is designed to help stabilize the market. Dozen of member companies of the global, non-profit industry association have already announced or plans to ship 802.11n-based hardware. However, the IEEE doesn’t think the 802.11n standard will be fully ratified until the first quarter of 2008.
As such, the WiFi Alliance today unveiled a two-phased approach to certifying the interoperability of Draft N products. After this initial phase in the certification program, a second phase will be introduced at the time of final IEEE 802.11n ratification that will support compatibility between pre-standard products and those certified to the full standard.
“This two-phase approach balances our longstanding commitment to standards-based technology with the current market need for product interoperability certification,” said WiFi 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.”
And even the harshest critics of the Draft N specification greeted the WiFi Alliance’s announcement with an air of optimism. “I can’t say right now, go out and buy Phase One gear, because it has no name and doesn’t exist,” declared Glenn Fleishman, noted author and industry analyst, on his WiFi Networking News blog.
“But I will predict with some degree of certainty that devices that start shipping in late winter 2007 will likely offer enough carrots for those who need higher performance or greater area networks to start thinking about purchase, and what’s for sale by June 2007 (and certified) will be good investments in the next generation of Wi-Fi,” he concluded.
Robert Liu is Executive Editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was Executive Editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. For more articles, please visit Robert Liu's columnist page.


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