Electronic Design

Wi-Fi Alliance will certify 802.11n products

Drafts logo in advance of IEEE standards

In advance of the adoption of the IEEE “n” amendment to wireless standard 802.11, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that it will begin certifying 802.11n draft 2.0 products in June. The Alliance’s certification standards are intended to ensure industry-wide interoperability, security protection and backward compatibility with previous generations of Wi-Fi equipment. “With the arrival of Wi-Fi certified 802.11n draft 2.0 products, we end the practice of uncertain claims of Wi-Fi draft compliance by independent vendors,” Ken Dulaney, vice president of Gartner Research, said in a statement. IEEE began developing amendment “n” in January 2004, but its Task Group (TGn) has not yet ratified the current draft 2.0—and might not do so until March 2009, said Karen Hanley, senior director of marketing for the Wi-Fi Alliance. In the meantime, companies have been developing products to conform with the new standard, which is supposed to deliver up to five times the throughput and up to twice the range of previous Wi-Fi equipment. 802.11n products will be able to operate in the 5GHz band, which is clearer than the crowded 2.4GHz band currently used by b/g Wi-Fi products. Its outdoor range of 160 meters and indoor range of 70 meters stretches farther than b/g’s respective 35-meter and 110-meter ranges. The new standard also incorporates MIMO (multiple-in, multiple-out) antennas for better signaling. A number of companies have already had products certified, including Atheros, Broadcom, Cicso, Intel, Marvell, and Ralink. The Alliance expects “a couple million \[n-certified products\] to ship this year” with the largest estimate being 15 million products, Hanley said. “In large part, \[pre-standard certification\] goes to the large quantity of product expected in the channel this year,” she said. “The IEEE moved \[ratification\] to March 2009, so for interoperability, Wi-Fi certification is critically important in that interim.” She added that the market for n-certified chip sets was over $200 million last year, and is growing above a 20 percent compound annual growth rate. "Design engineers have a critical role in designing \[n-certified\] chips, \[especially in\] testing and demonstrating compatibility across vendor products," Hanley said. Wi-Fi Alliance also released a new logo incorporating 802.11n to tag on the products. When the draft is finalized, the Alliance – a partnership of over 300 technology companies – says it will update its certification guidelines.

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