Wi-Fi group to update WLAN spec
Acronyms accrue as 802.11i and 802.11e arrive
The Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) is so confident that the IEEE will at long last ratify the 802.11e specification as a standard that it has already come up with a marketing name for the technology.
The standard will be branded the Wireless Media Extensions (WME), and the organisation will start certifying WLAN products' ability to interoperate with other 802.11e products in September.
WME adds quality of service provisions to Wi-Fi. Essentially it priorities traffic according to the type of data being carried. Network packets carrying video data are sent in preference to those carrying web pages or email in order to ensure the more-time sensitive information gets the bandwidth it needs.
The result should be video that doesn't lose picture quality, for example. It might even make Voice over IP (VoIP) commonplace.
The 802.11e specification also includes technology the WFA is calling Wi-Fi Scheduled Media (WSM), which dedicates bandwidth segments to specific data types. However, since WSM is going to be less of a necessity for home users, the WFA is focusing its attention on WME.
The WFA managed a similar technological split with the 802.11i security specification, also expected to be ratified by the IEEE later this year. Last year, the WFA unveiled Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), which is essentially 802.11i minus the components of the standard that require hardware acceleration. That effectively means the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
The WPA will also begin certifying WLAN kit for 802.11i in September, probably as WPA 2. The new spec. may require new hardware, depending on whether WLAN manufacturers have anticipated the spec. and built in thus-far-unused hardware acceleration. WME and WSM updates are likely to require just a firmware update.
Both 802.11e and 802.11i are expected to be officially proclaimed standards by the IEEE this summer. ®
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