Does WiFi Still Matter?

1:15 PM -- Remember the International Ladies Garment Workers Union song? “Look for the union label, when you are buying that new blouse." Perhaps we need a similar song for the Wi-Fi Alliance . The ILGWU is now gone -- merged with a couple of other unions in response to shrinking membership -- and we can argue labor politics some other time. Today, the need for what the Alliance does has never been greater, and there’s a quiet assault on its core mission underway.

That core mission is the specification and certification of interoperability in wireless LANs. The Alliance has, more than any other factor saved 802.11, and it was responsible for the clear success of wireless LANs in both residential and enterprise settings. Today "WLAN" and "WiFi" are synonymous (a trademark issue for the Alliance, but I digress).

Take a look at the box when you’re buying that new router or client card. There’s a good chance the WiFi logo is missing. This is not to say that the device won’t work with other WiFi-approved products, just that no one has certified this interoperability. For example, I recently tested a large number of MIMO-based ("Draft n” and otherwise) WLAN products for rate-vs.-range throughput and interoperability. Not one was WiFi approved and, yes, all were a lot faster than .11g.

Without the WiFi Alliance, or the efforts of similar organization, the WLAN business could quickly become a chaotic brew of incompatibilities frustrating consumers and professionals alike. The Alliance is, of course, a trade association, not a government bureau so its enforcement powers are quite limited. But perhaps we should look for the logo before we buy that new wireless product. The alternative could be painful.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:45:26 AM
re: Does WiFi Still Matter? Like the article says, WiFi Alliance was a good thing for the industry -- but I don't think it ever mattered much to the consumer, and matters even less today.

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