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802.11r: Wireless LAN Fast Roaming


The IEEE 802.11r standard will facilitate secure mobility by reducing hand-off delay in WLANs during transitions between access points. This protocol will let more stringent security mechanisms, such as 802.11i, be employed without service interruption, which is essential for real-time apps like Vo-Fi.

802.11r is being developed by a task group that includes participants from Aruba Networks, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Intel, Motorola, Nokia, SpectraLink and Texas Instruments. Expect broad support from WLAN infrastructure and client vendors, with initial availability of infrastructure offerings by the end of 2007 or early 2008. The Wi-Fi Alliance will test interoperability of products implementing fast-roaming capability in its Enterprise Voice over WiFi certification.

Once 802.11r is implemented, secure mobility on Wi-Fi networks will be a reality. With new dual-mode phones and fixed-mobile convergence spurring enterprise interest in Vo-Fi, 11r will meet a significant need. Meantime, enterprises looking to deploy secure voice over WLAN networks must rely on inadequate security protocols and proprietary solutions.


For Wi-fi to serve as a foundation for mobile applications and voice, networks must provide secure mobility. And to achieve that, mobile devices need robust authentication and encryption, fast roaming and QoS (quality of service).

Enterprise IT pros should pay attention to the IEEE's 802.11r fast-roaming task group, whose standard is likely to make its way to market by late 2007 or early 2008, with broad adoption by enterprise solution providers in 2008.

The arrival of 11r is timely. Voice over Wi-Fi is expected to generate increased interest as more dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular solutions are delivered this year. Many enterprises have moved from VPNs and captive portals to WLAN security architectures built around 802.11i/WPA2. Vendors have been offering proprietary secure-mobility solutions for years, and many of the underlying foundations for 802.11r have been tested on real networks.