Wi-Fi Alliance: Wireless-N to be finalized soon

Group announces that its Wi-Fi-certified products will continue to interoperate with other Wireless-N products when the spec is finalized, presumably, in September.

Matthew Gast, a voting member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), suggested in his recent blog that the current Wireless-N (or 802.11n Draft) specification is going to be finalized in September.

The logo you should look for when buying wireless networking products.

If this is true, that would mean the specification took about seven years to become finalized from the day it was conceived.

So what does it mean for consumers? Apparently not much, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the group that tests and certifies wireless networking products to ensure their interoperability.

The group announced Thursday that it will not change the baseline requirements of its 802.11n certification program, and plans to make only small optional additions to address the finalization of the 802.11n standard. The updated test program will preserve interoperability with more than 600 Wi-Fi-certified 802.11n draft 2.0 products released since June 2007, while adding testing for some optional features now included in the final standard.

The optional features to be tested in the final standard include:

  • Packet aggregation (A-MPDU), to make data transfers more efficient
  • Space-time Block Coding (STBC), a multiple-antenna transmission technique to improve performance in some environments
  • Channel coexistence measures for "good neighbor" behavior when using 40 MHz operation
  • Testing for devices supporting three spatial streams

This means if you have bought yourself a Wi-Fi-certified wireless product--and you should only buy a wireless networking product that has been Wi-Fi-certified-- it will be working just fine once the spec has become final. Any new features of the final standard will likely be made available to that product via firmware.

For networking vendors, this is also good news. Because all Wi-Fi-certified draft 2.0 products meet the core requirements of--and interoperate with--the updated program, they will be eligible to use the approved 802.11n logo without retesting.

Though not yet finalized, 802.11n draft 2.0 products have been widely accepted across consumer and enterprise markets. According to ABI Research forecasts, among wireless networking standards, including 802.11b and 802.11g, shipments of Wireless-N (802.11n) products will reach 45 percent this year and grow to nearly 60 percent in 2012.

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