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Wi-Fi group approves new standard

The Wi-Fi Alliance certifies its first batch of products that use the 802.11g standard, an expected step that further ensures the popularity of the networking technology.

Products that use the 802.11g standard received a clean bill of health from an influential industry group on Tuesday, further ensuring the popularity of the wireless networking technology.

As expected, the recently finalized 802.11g standard was endorsed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which said it had certified its first batch of products for interoperability. The announcement means that those products have passed tests that prove they are compatible with one another.

Someone using an approved PC Card should be able, for instance, to walk into any cafe with an approved access point and seamlessly connect to the network. An access point is essentially a radio transmitter linked to a wireless network.

Industry insiders saw the certification of products using the 802.11g standard by the Wi-Fi Alliance largely as a rubber stamp of approval, because products using 802.11g-based components have been on the market for some time, and the latest version of the specification was seen as stable. The Standards Board Review Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) approved the 802.11g specification as a standard in mid-June.

The 802.11g standard allows wireless networks to transmit data at 54 megabits per second, uses the 2.4GHz radio band and is meant to be compatible with Wi-Fi equipment based on the earlier, slower 802.11b standard. Wi-Fi lets people access and share resources on a wireless network.

Still, the certification is significant, because it means that consumers are likely to get a similar experience whenever they use an approved wireless networking product. Many people have credited standards and interoperability testing with being a major factor in the success of the wireless networking market.

Certified interoperability is meant to avoid compatibility issues such as the one experienced by products that used a pre-standard 802.11g specification earlier this year. Initial 802.11g products did not perform up to snuff with one another or with products using the 802.11b standard. But the issues were resolved when the IEEE released updated versions of the specification.

With the release of products that use the 802.11g standard, the 802.11b standard will likely be modified to allow devices using that standard to consume less electrical current but also have a reduced range. This will make the 802.11b standard a good candidate for use in portable devices such as handhelds and cell phones, according to Brian Grimm, a Wi-Fi Alliance spokesman.

Grimm added that he expected fewer products using just the older 802.11a standard to be introduced and that dual mode 802.11g and 802.11a products would likely become more prevalent.

The Wi-Fi Alliance certified eight products--four access points and four PC Cards--from six companies that use chipsets from four different silicon suppliers. The group certified the following access points:

•  Atheros AR5001X+ Universal 802.11a/b/g Wireless Network Adapter.

•  Broadcom 54g(tm) AP Reference Design - BCM94306-GAP.

•  Intersil PRISM Duette PCMCIA Adapter Model ISL39000C.

•  Intersil PRISM Duette Access Point Developer's Kit Model ISL39300A.

The group also certified the following PC cards:

•  Melco AirStation 54Mbps Wireless Notebook Adapter-g Model# WLI-CB-G54(A).

•  Proxim ORiNOCO AP-600b/g.

•  Texas Instrument TNET1130 WLAN Cardbus Reference Design.

•  Texas Instrument TNETWA622-g10-DP Access Point Reference Design.