802.11n Draft 2.0 Certs Around the Corner

The Wi-Fi Alliance will
launch its certification program for 802.11n Draft 2.0 products in
late June as expected. The program features a new test bed of
products for interoperability testing, plus a brand new logo design
for the packaging of certified products.

“The logo focuses on 11n capability and backward
compatibility to a or g or both,” says Karen Hanley, senior
director of marketing for the Alliance. “It was a design we
choose from more than 200 options, which we tested with consumers
and took to the membership for approval. Everyone thought it did
the best job of showing the backward compatibility element.”
She says for now the Alliance can’t make guarantees to
anyone about upgradeability to the final 11n spec, even if vendors
promise the firmware. Because of that, “backwards
compatibility is what we’re most worried about.”

The logo, as shown, includes the word “DRAFT” but
that will be dropped once the 802.11n specification is ratified in
2008 and products are tested (or even retested) for the final
standard.

The new test bed of products the Alliance will utilize in its
seven certification labs around the globe are mostly reference
designs from chip makers Atheros’ Xspan,
Broadcom’s Intensi-Fi,
Marvell’s TopDog,
and Ralink’s
MIMObility, each with a router/AP and client card. There’s
also a Cisco ()AP
and the Intel ()Wireless
WiFi Link 4965AGN– the chip powering the Wi-Fi in the new Centrop
Pro/Centrino Duo laptops
. All the products have been tested, as
per Hanley’s comments above, as interoperable with 802.11abg
legacy products.

The test bed software tool is WildPackets OmniPeek Workgroup
Pro.

The Alliance test will only include 40MHz channels — an option
of 802.11n to increase bandwidth — in the 5GHz spectrum. A
possibility of interference exists with 802.11b and 11g products
using the 2.4GHz band. Newer 11n products (which can support both
5GHz and 2.4GHz) are expected to be a good neighbor to existing
networks, so all products are expected to dummy down to 20MHz
channels when legacy networks are in range. This ability to find
older networks and respect them is called the “
greenfield preamble
.”

Hanley says the labs are currently doing quality control tests
with the test bed and praised the companies providing products:
“It represents a big commitment by them to invest the
engineering hours.” It also doesn’t hurt that they can
market their reference designs as already Wi-Fi Certified of
course, giving their OEM (
define
)customers reassurance that their final products are more
than likely to pass certification testing the first time
around.

Starting with the 11n testing, the formerly optional Wi-Fi
MultiMedia (WMM) test for Quality of Service (QoS), as specified in
the 802.11e spec, is now mandatory. Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (based
on 802.11i) is still mandatory. Other options that vendors can
request testing of include power savings and Wi-Fi Protected Setup
(WPS), the Alliance’s first standard of its own, building an
ease-of-use feature on top of the WPA security.

“We expect strong uptake of [11n certification
testing],” Hanley told Wi-Fi Planet. “We expect to see
certified products on shelves in the summer — in fact, the logo is
available to vendors now so they can prepare their packaging. Once
they’re certified, they can sell in the channel.”

The Alliance will have a white paper available today for both
retailers selling 11n Draft 2.0 products, and consumer buying them,
discussing the up and downsides of the still unratified
specification.

Researchers at Telecom
Trends International
say the market for Wi-Fi products will
reach $5.6 billion in revenue by the year 2012, with 11n adoption a
major factor in the growth. 11n will offer both upgrades in speed
and range over the current 802.11abg products.

Article courtesy of Wi-Fi Planet

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