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Lee Badman
Lee Badman
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Wi-Fi Alliance Opens 802.11ac Certification Program

The Wi-Fi Alliance is now certifying interoperability of 802.11ac products for the consumer and enterprise markets. It's a milestone on the road to full ratification of the 11ac standard.

Though ratification of the 802.11ac standard is still a few months out, the industry has reached an important milestone with the announcement of the Wi-Fi Alliance's "Wi-Fi CERTIFIED" program for 11ac devices. The program certifies that 802.11ac products have passed a set of interoperability tests.

I run a large university WLAN infrastructure, and this kind of certification matters to me. Without the alliance's programs, there would be an order of magnitude less interoperability among 802.11 clients and WLANs, and the world of mobility would be a much less friendly place.

The alliance predicts that about a billion and a half 11ac or dual-band 5 GHz 11ac/2.4 GHz 11n chipsets will be in service by early 2015. Without interoperability and standard client testing, we'd be talking about a lot of potentially miserable clients and network administrators.

Candidate products have to pass a series of tests defined by the program that cover the specific wireless technology (11a, 11n, 11ac, and so on) or they don't get the Wi-Fi Certified label. Customers that buy Wi-Fi Certified products are assured of a defined level of cross-platform interoperability.

[802.11ac could require significant infrastructure upgrades. Find out what you may be in for in The 802.11ac Paradox.]

Many of us in the WLAN field have been following 11ac's progress, but for those not so close to the technical elements of wireless, the Wi-Fi Alliance's certification program serves to introduce the new standard to potential customers.

As each subsequent iteration of the 802.11 standard gets more complex, and more device types get equipped with wireless connectivity, the alliance provides education about and tracking of the overall wireless landscape. Both consumers and businesses can find out about how each standard is tested and what products have been certified through the alliance's website.

Early products that have been 11ac-certified under Wi-Fi Alliance's new program include stand-alone devices; reference design components that will be used in other products; and client hardware from Broadcom, Intel, Marvell, Mediatek and Realtek.

The alliance expects consumer devices to lead the flood of 11ac products as we get deeper into 2013, with enterprise environments proceeding more slowly. The Wave 1/Wave 2 rollout of 802.11ac will certainly create a cloud of confusion around the emergent standard, but as products become certified, you can follow all of them at the alliance's website.

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