Wi-Fi Alliance To Certify 802.11n Gear Before Standard Is Approved

Wi-Fi 802.11n

The move could ease customer concerns over adopting the technology before the standard is fully approved.

The Alliance said it expects to begin certifying interoperability of Wi-Fi products that include baseline features of the developing standard in the first half of 2007. Typically the group does not certify products until the standards they are based on are finalized.

The strategy shift comes after the IEEE, the body responsible for ratifying 802.11n, disclosed that it expects to delay final approval of the standard until the first quarter of 2008. Ratification had been expected in 2007.

The group, an association of more than 275 companies that includes vendors such as Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Intel, Motorola, Nokia and Sony, plans to implement a dual-phased program for certifying products. The first phase includes interoperability certifications for products based on the draft standard, while the second phase will bring in the fully ratified standard. During the second phase, the Alliance plans to support compatibility between pre-standard products and those certified to the full standard.

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"While we are committed to supporting a full 802.11n standard when it is available, pre-standard products are reaching a level of maturity and there is enough market uptake that a certification program makes sense for the industry," said Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, in a statement.

A spate of "pre-N" wireless networking products is already on the market, based on chipsets from vendors such as Atheros Communications and Broadcom.

"By certifying the interoperability between draft-N products and those based on the final standard, the [Wi-Fi Alliance] is providing consumers with confidence to purchase next-generation Wi-Fi devices today," Broadcom said in a statement.

The IEEE is now working on the next version of the 802.11n draft after version 1.0 was voted down by members in May. By that time, some analysts had begun cautioning buyers that devices based on pre-standard chipsets could have interoperability problems.