Asus guarantees pre-n kit will meet 802.11n standard

Free software or hardware upgrades if not

Asus has put its money where its mouth is and pledged to provide free upgrades to its pre-802.11n wireless products should changes to the final version of the specification require software or hardware changes for compatibility.

The guarantee, which covers Asus' WL-500W Super Speed N wireless router and WL-100W Super Speed N wireless adapter, warrants closer inspection. For starters, it's a time-limited offer, with the duration set not with reference to any IEEE ratification procedure but simply stretches to products bought before the end of the year.

Buy an Asus-branded WLAN product next January and it won't be covered, at least not according to the terms outlined by the company today.

The warranty itself won't be activated until 802.11n is ratified by the IEEE, at which point customers who bought their products during Q4 2006 can check in with Asus. If a firmware update is required, the company will post it online. But if it needs to ship out fresh hardware, it will - customers will have to cover the cost of getting their incompatible kit to Asus themselves.

The IEEE isn't expected to ratify 802.11n until late next year, though that hasn't stopped companies announcing products. Even Intel has. It's customarily conservative in such circumstances, but this time reckons the current draft 802.11n specification will be close enough to the final release for it to be able to ship 'pre-n' technology as part of its next major Centrino refresh, 'Santa Rosa', expected mid-H1 2007.

In that timeframe, the Wi-Fi Alliance is expected to begin formally certifying such products for interoperability. That in itself will lend momentum to whatever draft of 802.11n is in place at that point, limiting the opportunity for significant changes to the specification by the time it's ratified.

Hopefully, Asus will extend its warranty beyond the end of the year and up to the point the Wi-Fi Alliance kicks off its certification process. In the meantime, for a short period at least, the scheme does provide some peace of mind. Unless, of course, the Broadcom Intensi-Fi chips the Asus kit is based on doesn't quite align with what could be the de facto 802.11n standard as defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance. ®

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