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Alliance to begin testing 802.11a wireless LAN devices

Posted: 11 Oct 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Wi-Fi Alliance? WLAN products? ieee 802.11a? lan?

The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced that it will begin interoperability certification testing of 5GHz IEEE 802.11a-based WLAN products. The testing is expected to inject new life into a market that's starving for interoperable products, whose existence helped kick-start the market for 802.11b-based WLANs in the late 1990s.

WLANs wandered in a desert of proprietary solutions for over 10 years before the IEEE standards association agreed to basic specifications for both 2.4GHz (802.11b) and 5GHz (802.11a) operation in September 1999. The Wi-Fi Alliance (formerly known as WECA) uses those specifications as the basis for its interoperability testing of 802.11b and of 802.11a devices.

While standards enable multiple vendors to compete in a market and presumably reduce costs, interoperability testing assures a level of adherence to those standards and marginalizes devices that do not intercommunicate effectively, potentially frustrating end users and jeopardizing the market as a whole.

The Wi-Fi Alliance tests 802.11b devices for such functions as handshaking, smooth handoffs, and rate back-off, and has to date certified is over 450 products. As a result, 802.11b products are dropping in price as volumes increase, and the technology is becoming commonplace.

The Alliance is looking to repeat that pattern with 802.11a devices, many of which have appeared this year. Testing will be conducted at the organization's laboratory in San Jose, California Products that receive certification will be granted a "Wi-Fi Certified" seal of interoperability.

"This is an important step in the development of a broad range of future products, and provides the foundation for the dual-band [IEEE 802.11a and 802.11b] product interoperability testing," said Sarosh Vesuna, chairman of the Wi-Fi Alliance technical committee.

The announcement of 11a testing comes a day after Micro Linear Corp. said it reversed plans for entering the 802.11a market, citing excessive competition and slow sales growth. The company will focus instead on other wireless technologies, including 802.11b.

- Patrick Mannion

EE Times

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