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802.11n Progresses With Certification Plan

The Wi-Fi Alliance this week announced the first products certified to the emerging 802.11n standard, as well as a new logo and test suite to ramp up the certification process later this summer.

All but three products in the Wi-Fi Alliance's 802.11n Draft 2.0 test bed are reference designs, but that's not at all unusual as OEMs and leading WLAN vendors print their own boards and tweak their own software. Already before the announcement Wednesday, one of the leading enterprise Wi-Fi vendors hinted that they would be participating in the first round of tests to be held in the latter half of June. Karen Hanley, Wi-Fi Alliance spokesperson, confirmed that there is a great deal of interest in this certification and that their 11 test labs in 7 countries will all be geared up to handle the demand. Although certified products from enterprise Wi-Fi vendors may be in customers' hands before the end of the summer, it remains to be seen if these products can play nicely with legacy clients or if 802.11n works better as an overlay build, with organizations transitioning users to the new standard as they phase out older clients and buy new 802.11n gear. The Wi-Fi Alliance plans to perform some backward compatibility testing, but certification labs are no real-world deployment, and as enterprises did with the introduction of 802.11g, we're sure to find significant problems that require driver and firmware upgrades.

Frank Bulk
NWC Contributing Editor

NWC Contributing Editor Frank Bulk has been talking with vendors and closely tracking 802.11n rollout plans and architectural decisions. Get the scoop on Frank's take on 802.11n's future, based on a series of interviews with key vendors in the NWC Blog.

Networks based on 802.11n promise greater wireless bandwidth--up to five times the throughput and twice the range of the previous generation of Wi-Fi gear, by some estimates.

The Wi-Fi Alliance plans to begin testing products to the 802.11n draft 2.0 specification in June. The full ratification of the 802.11n standard is expected by early 2009, according to published reports.

The alliance also announced the first products to be certified to the draft 2.0 specs--essentially the products that will make up the 802.11n draft 2.0 certification test bed, including:
- Atheros XSPAN with SST Draft 2.0 802.11n Dual-Concurrent 2.4/5GHz Router with Atheros AR7100 Series Wireless Network Processor
- Atheros XSPAN with SST Draft 2.0 802.11n Dual-Band 2.4/5GHz Card Bus
- Broadcom Intensi-Fi 802.11n Router: BCM94705GMP
- Broadcom Intensi-Fi 802.11n Card: BCM94321MC123
- Cisco Access Point
- Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN

- Marvell TopDog WLAN solutions (Station Card)
- Marvell TopDog WLAN solutions (Access Point)
- Ralink MIMObility RT2800PD Chipset featuring the RT2860 802.11n 2T3R MAC/BBP and the RT2850 802.11n Dual-Band RFIC
- Ralink MIMObility RT2800PD Access Point
- WildPackets OmniPeek Workgroup Pro (included as a test bed software tool)

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