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Wi-Fi Alliance to certify 802.11n ahead of IEEE standard

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The Wi-Fi Alliance is to start certifying 802.11n products in March 2007, despite the fact the standard won't be completed until the following year, according to CNet.

Devices will be tested for conformance to the draft standard, and for interoperability, which have been the major concerns of buyers to date. Anyone buying 802.11n kit today is wise to stick to one manufacturer, or risk compatibility problems, and this has prevented large scale uptake of the technology.

Apparently, the Wi-Fi Alliance is "hoping" that equipment certified to the draft standard will be compatible with equipment conforming to the final version, though it offers no guarantee, and that might not be enough for corporate buyers.

Of course, if pre-standard but certified equipment becomes popular enough, the final standard will have to be compatible or risk becoming sidelined.

But once equipment has the Wi-Fi Alliance logo on it, is tested for interoperability, and starts selling, what will be the point of the IEEE continuing to debate the details of a standard which cannot be significantly changed and which no one cares about anymore?

Without significant enhancements, which will be difficult if compatibility is to be preserved, there will be little motivation for anyone to adopt the "proper" version of the standard.

The way the IEEE debates and establishes standards has already come under fire for being too bureaucratic and slow for today's market-driven industry, and the way in which it was sidelined in the Ultra Wideband debate amply demonstrated that.

If the Wi-Fi Alliance is prepared to sidestep the formal approval process, the real question becomes what future has the IEEE in the wireless industry? ®

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