Don't believe all WiFi hype

The successor to the 802.11g wireless networking standard isn't expected to be finalized for almost two years, but the Wi-Fi Alliance isn't taking chances. It's message: Any vendor claiming to employ next-generation 802.11n technology may be stripped of its Wi-Fi certification if the claim is made before the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers signs off on the new standard.

The 802.11g standard superceded 802.11a and 802.11b, allowing for wireless data transmission rates of 54Mbps. The forthcoming 802.11n standard will roughly double that speed.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit industry group established to standardize and certify wireless networking products, is trying to head off a repeat of the 802.11g roll-out in June 2003. Wireless vendors began shipping so-called 802.11g products about six months before the IEEE actually finalized the specification.

"Vendors took advantage of unsuspecting buyers when they touted pre-standard technology for 802.11g that later did not meet the standard," said Ken Dulaney, lead wireless networking analyst for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "Left unchecked, the industry is unfortunately poised to repeat itself with 802.11n."

Wi-Fi certification has grown more important for government agencies wishing to deploy wireless networks. At a conference last month in Washington, Ronald Jost, director of wireless at the Defense Department, told attendees the department would be looking for the Wi-Fi Alliance's WPA2 certification when it procured wireless networks. WPA2 is a new security standard that meets Federal Information Processing Standards published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Currently no 802.11n products exist. The Wi-Fi Alliance made its announcement as a precautionary measure.

"Pre-standard products always present an inherent risk for technology adopters, and that is why we will not certify 802.11n products until the IEEE standard is finalized," said Frank Hanzlik managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

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