A rundown of standards

The 802.3af draft outlines a way to run electricity over Ethernet cables, removing the need to run both power and network lines to wireless LAN endpoints.

At least two vendors, 3Com and Foundry Networks have released PoE (power over Ethernet) hardware.

Foremost among wireless questions to be answered in the next few years is whether 802.11a or 802.11g will become the natural successor to the present wireless LAN industry standard, 802.11b.

802.11a operates in a different radio frequency band to 802.11b and thus for those already using b there are compatibility issues with migrating to a, whereas g offers a clearer path, running in the same spectrum as b.

Some wireless LAN hardware manufacturers are going with g exclusively, but most are hedging their bets and shipping dual-mode products, so just which will become b’s natural successor is unclear at this stage.

Once the a-g contest is settled, however, it won’t be the end of wireless LAN development – security, generally cited as the biggest flaw in the wireless LAN world today, will be addressed through 802.1x, a user authentication mechanism and EAP (extensible authentication protocol).

Once security concerns are addressed, and assuming wireless LAN use really takes off, further steps in its development may include 802.11e, which would enable a, g or b, if that’s still the dominant standard, to run better and enable streaming multimedia to be delivered via wireless LANs in consumers’ homes.

Going further down the track, 802.15.3, or high-rate wireless personal area networks, will further enhance the delivery of multimedia content in users’ homes, but its range is extremely limited (about 16 kilometres) and has been touted as a competitor to Bluetooth more than to 802.11 wireless LANs.

– files from IDG News Service