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The Wi-Fi Alliance (formerly the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, or WECA), the non-profit organization behind the testing and certification for interoperability of 802.11-based networking products, today announced what they call the "capabilities label" to be used on future wireless LAN products they verify as interoperable with others.

This new logo will still carry the "Wi-Fi Certified" stamp used today, but will also specify to whether a tested product has "Certified Interoperability for" 2.4GHz Band/11Mbps products (using 802.11b), 5GHz Band/54Mbps products (using 802.11a), or both if its a dual band product.

The capabilities label does not mention the term "802.11" at all. According to Wi-Fi Alliance spokesperson C. Brian Grimm, a series of focus groups showed them that the terms 802.11b or 11a didn't have much meaning. "People can relate best to cordless phones," says Grimm. "We saw that as very important. We saw the need to make it very simple and use terms people can relate to."

Wi-Fi LabelThe label will be required on all 802.11a and dual-band products that the Wi-Fi Alliance is currently testing for certification, and all previously certified 802.11b products have until January 2004 to switch to the new label on packaging. This should give companies time to sell all products currently in the sales channel.

The newly revamped Wi-Fi Alliance Web site at www.wi-fi.org will eventually carry a database of all capabilities labels.

This move toward consolidating the Wi-Fi brand name on all 802.11-based products is one the Wi-Fi Alliance started toward this past summer. At one point, the plan was to differentiate 802.11a products as "Wi-Fi5," but focus groups indicated to the Alliance that the public expected 802.11a to be backwards compatible with 11b -- that's not the case.

The Wi-Fi Alliance currently has over 170 member companies and has to date certified 450 products based on the 802.11b standard as interoperable.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

802.11 Planet Conference Join us at the 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo, Dec. 3-5 in Santa Clara, CA. Dennis Eaton, chairman of the Wi-Fi Alliance, will be delivering our keynote address.