The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced it plans to certify interoperability of Wi-Fi products that include baseline features from the developing IEEE 802.11n standard in the first half of 2007. This is the first phase in a certification program of the next generation of Wi-Fi products. A second phase brings full alignment with the ratified standard.
The IEEE recently updated its estimated timeline for ratification of a full 802.11n standard, and is now targeting the first quarter of 2008 for final approval. However, Wi-Fi products implementing features from the draft specification are in the market now, and analysts forecast that tens of millions of pre-standard devices will ship in 2007.
“This two-phase approach balances our longstanding commitment to standards-based technology with the current market need for product interoperability certification,” said Wi-Fi Alliance Managing Director Frank Hanzlik. “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.”
The Wi-Fi Alliance expects the second phase of the program, introduced at the time of final IEEE 802.11n ratification, will support compatibility between Wi-Fi CERTIFIED pre-standard products and those certified to the full standard.
“The ratified IEEE 802.11n is likely to include a larger set of features and will be a fully-reviewed standard,” Hanzlik said. “We believe the maturity of the baseline features in the pre-standard certification diminishes the risk that products won’t comply with IEEE 802.11n when it is ratified.”
"This approach makes sense in light of the recent schedule change from IEEE," commented Ken Dulaney, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst in Gartner Research. "With this interim interoperability program, we achieve a technology advancement to fill the gap until the 802.11n standard and associated Wi-Fi certification is finally approved. With Wi-Fi Alliance backing, this interim certification can achieve industry interoperability -- something the alternative approaches to date were unable to guarantee."
The certification marks used for the first phase of the program will clearly indicate that the certified products are pre-standard, so that consumers will understand that what they are purchasing is not based on a ratified IEEE standard. Wi-Fi Alliance will announce details of the program name when it is finalized.