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Wi-Fi Alliance Plans for 11g Testing

While the specification for 802.11g is still in the draft stage with the IEEE , that hasn't stopped many companies and customers from embracing it. Knowing that, the Wi-Fi Alliance is already taking steps to make sure it's ready for 11g interoperability testing as soon as the specification is ratified in June of this year.

Unlike with 5GHz 802.11a product testing, the Alliance plans to have products in labs immediately after the specification is finalized.

"One of the primary delays with our certification when 11a products were out was that it was a single vendor solution," says Dennis Eaton, chairman of the Wi-Fi Alliance. At the time in late 2001 and well into 2002, Atheros had the only chipset found in 11a products. Single vendor is a no-no for the Alliance, so they can ensure full interoperability.

That's not the case with 802.11g, which already has draft-standard products out with chips from Broadcom, Intersil, and silicon announced from Atheros, Texas Instruments, Marvell , and others.

The Alliance requires a test bed of (at least) "four independently developed products with at least 2 chipsets," says Eaton. When 11g testing begins in the four Wi-Fi Alliance contracted labs around the world (in San Jose, CA, as well as Japan, Taiwan, and England), there will be specific mandatory requirements for a product to get a Wi-Fi seal for its packaging:

  • Backwards compatibility with 802.11b products
  • Simultaneous 11b and 11g client operation
  • Support for the full 54 Megabit per second (Mbps) data rate (only 24Mbps is required by the specification)

Other options to the specifications will likely be required for 11g Wi-Fi Certfication, including the use of built in protection mechanisms, much like wired equivalent privacy (WEP) was in 11b -- it wasn't required by the specification but it was needed for certification from the Alliance.

The Wi-Fi seal found on product packaging will add a check box under the "2.4 GHz Band" heading that will indicated "54 Mbps" when an 11g product is certified. Currently some 802.11g product are marked as Wi-Fi Certified, but that is only on the 802.11b side, which is indicated by a check mark next to "11 Mbps."

While 11g testing will start only after the specification is finished by the IEEE, the Alliances own brand of security, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) will be available soon. Eaton says testing for WPA (which will also get a check box on the Wi-Fi seal of approval) will begin as early as April. By August, WPA support will be mandatory for products to get Wi-Fi Certification.

"Interoperability certification is the core mission of the Wi-Fi Alliance," says Eaton. But, "Interoperability is not easily achieved. It requires vendors...to work together and work out those last few issues to get seamless interoperability. We believe we've been successful with that in the past."