Wi-Fi Alliance Tests for Multimedia

As of today, the Wi-Fi Alliance — the non-profit industry consortium that tests and certifies wireless LAN products for interoperability — is adding a new test that it hopes will push “rapid adoption of Wi-Fi networking in consumer electronic devices such as DVD players and televisions,” according to their prepared statement.

Called WMM (short for Wi-Fi Multimedia), the test is actually designed for a subset of what will be available in the final 802.11e specification, which will deliver full quality of service (QoS) for voice, audio, and video use over wireless networks. QoS would handle prioritizing packets of data carrying such traffic, making sure they get where they’re going ahead of less important traffic.

It’s roughly analogous to WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), a template for wireless security that the Alliance began testing for before the 802.11i security standard was finished. Now, the Alliance is testing 802.11i products using the brand name of WPA2. 802.11e will likely not be finished by the IEEE 802.11 Working Group until next year.

The first area that WMM testing is likely to impact is products used for voice over IP (VoIP) traffic on wireless LANs, which is gaining in both the enterprise and in the home.

The announcement of WMM included a listing of the first WMM Certified Wi-Fi products including dual-band (AKA “tri-mode,” supporting 802.11a/b/g) access point reference designs from Atheros Communications and Broadcom , as well as dual-band CardBus adapters from both companies. (The same products were also announced as certified for WPA2 last week.)

Likewise, those products will be used in the Alliance’s WMM test bed, just as they are in the WPA2 test bed. Broadcom says that the early certification for WMM gives it a head start to support customers looking to include voice and video in their future products using its chips.

Other products certified for WMM include Cisco’s Aironet 1200 Series Access Point, Instant802 Networks’ Gateway 7001 Access Point, Intel’s Pro/Wireless 2915 Network Connection (used in Centrino-based laptops) and the Realtek RTL8185&8255 802.11a/g 54M WLAN NIC.

WMM certification will not be mandatory with the Alliance.

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