Optical/IP Networks

WiFi Alliance Promises N-Harmony

The Wi-Fi Alliance has been pushing ahead with its interoperability testing of faster draft 802.11n and now says that 90 products are certified compliant with the specification.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) has been working on the 802.11n standard since April 2003. The technology uses multi-antenna arrays -- otherwise known as MIMO -- to double the range of wireless local area networks and to crank the speed past 500 Mbit/s at peak rates. (See 802.11n Standard Slowly Approaches.)

This increased throughput caused many vendors to leap on draft specifications and ship so-called "pre-n" products way before the standard was ready. Rather than have millions of incompatible units on the market, the WiFi Alliance had to break with tradition and start working on certification before the standard was ratified.

"It was pretty critical," says WiFi Alliance senior market director, Karen Hanley.

Among the 90 products certified are 802.11n access points from Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), chipsets from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), and an enterprise access point from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Some vendors are betting that enterprise customers will buy into certified 802.11n draft products even before the standard is ratified. (See Cisco Goes 802.11n.) The draft 2.0 specification is unlikely to be the final word on the 802.11n standard, however. Hanley says the IEEE met last week and is still talking about improving the speed and overall performance of 802.11n. Nonetheless, she stresses end users can now buy certified backwards-compatible WiFi draft 2.0 cards and still see an improvement in range without even replacing their 802.11g access point or router.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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