ROCHESTER, N.Y. Hoping to corral a potential runaway train, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced its plans for bringing interoperability to the emerging 802.11g wireless LAN sector. In a release today (Feb. 24), the industry body said it will begin providing coveted Wi-Fi certifications only after the IEEE 802.11g standard gets formally adopted. And, to receive these certifications, OEMs will be expected to simultaneously support 802.11b and 802.11g while also achieving data rates up to 54 Mbit/s operation.
Since mid last year, debates have been flying in the sector about the launch of pre-standard 802.11g systems. In fact, debates got so heated at one point, that 802.11 chair Stuart Kerry sent out a stern note that told members "it is improper to claim compliance with a standard or any amendment that has not yet been approved."
Despite Kerry's warnings, chip developers and system houses continued to prep 802.11g solutions for the market, with a host of companies unveiling product at last year's Comdex show. But, now that the products are in the market, issues such as interoperability between 802.11b and g are again moving to the forefront.
To curb potential interoperability headaches, the Wi-Fi alliance is actively working to bring a unified test bed certifying 802.11g systems. While a formal specification is still not in place, Wi-Fi Marketing Chair Amer Hassan said the alliance is using the draft 6.1 version of the spec for the initial test bed setup. "This is a mature draft that we can do a lot with," Hassan said. "If there are any changes, they'll be small."
While all the details on the test bed are not worked out, the Wi-Fi Alliance isn't wasting any time answering some key interoperability questions surrounding the optional elements in the 802.11g spec. Under the draft spec, 802.11g systems can optionally support 802.11b operation and are only mandated to operate up 24 Mbit/s. The alliance, however, is taking these options and making them mandates. Thus, to receive certification, companies will have to provide that systems can support both 802.11b and g operation. Additionally, the certification process will require testing up to 54 Mbit/s, Hassan said.
As a part of the certification program, the Wi-Fi Alliance will host a number of unplugged events at the University of New Hampshire's Interoperability Lab. Formal certifications will be handled by four Agilent labs located in the US, Japan, Taiwan, and England
Editor's Note: Patrick Mannion contributed to this article.