Wi-Fi devices not talking
Wi-Fi Alliance admits to lack of communication
The UK Consumers' Association recently upset the Wi-Fi wireless networking world by saying that two different makers were unable to inter-operate. The incident was seen as a one-off. Not so, it now seems.
According to a report carried in eWeek.com, the Wi-Fi Alliance has now publicly admitted that there is a problem.
The original report of incompatibility focused simply on a Netgear wireless bridge, which the supplier effectively admitted was faulty in design.
But now, working network administrators have been complaining that it is often hard to make a WLAN secure unless all the equipment is from the same supplier, because the standard security models have been extended, changed, and even rendered obsolete by new developments.
One admin worker said: "We've recently discovered that the length of the security key is crucial for inter-working between varieties of Wi-Fi gear. Some parts simply won't accept more than a 40-bit key; others require it in Ascii, others in HEX."
Another sysadmin said: "It's also the case that the same identical make of cards, one in a Windows XP machine and the other in a Windows ME machine, can be almost impossible to configure so that they work properly together."
At the CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Wi-Fi Alliance spokesman Brian Grimm said: "About 22 per cent of the devices - such as wireless networking cards for computers, access ports and printer servers - submitted for testing at four partner laboratories failed to work on a network on the first try," according to the AP report.
Grimm said increasing complexity and stronger security was causing the problems; "As equipment becomes more advanced, we're actually seeing interoperability failures go up."
The public perception of this remains low, mostly because home users rarely bother to enable security in Wi-Fi. Also, many of the thousands of public Wi-Fi hotspots have no security built into the wireless transceivers at all, being set up as open points to make logging in simpler. Security - if there is any - is managed from the server which connects the WLAN to the internet.