Wi-Fi group gives first 802.11a certifications

Consumers and businesses can now buy 54Mbps wireless LAN (WLAN) products that are certified to work with similar products from a variety of vendors, after interoperability testing by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The industry group Thursday unveiled the first list of products built for the IEEE 802.11a standard that have passed interoperability testing in its lab. That standard uses radio frequencies in the range of 5GHz and calls for a maximum data rate of 54Mbps.

Previously, the Wi-Fi Alliance had only certified interoperability of products built to the 802.11b standard, which uses a band around 2.4GHz and a data rate of 11Mbps. Approximately 600 products from about 100 different vendors have received that certification, said Brian Grimm, a spokesperson for the alliance. One of the products certified Thursday is “dual-band,” meaning it can work on both kinds of networks, depending on which is available.

The group also has kicked off informal testing of products designed with early versions of the emerging 802.11g standard. That standard is intended to deliver the same data rate as 802.11a but on the 2.4GHz band. Products that meet the 802.11g standard will also work with 802.11b, and advanced development and economies of scale in 2.4GHz radios could make this a less expensive route to high-speed wireless LAN for some users, according to industry analysts.

The alliance expects to begin certifying 802.11g products in either June or August of this year, depending on when the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) approves the 802.11g standard, said Dennis Eaton, chair of the Wi-Fi Alliance, in Mountain View, Calif.

Setting up interoperability testing can take six to 12 months, according to Eaton. The first step is to establish interoperability among a group of products from a variety of companies that use chipsets from at least two different vendors. Once that “test bed” has been set up, other products can be tested for interoperability. The group does not test a product’s data throughput or the distance over which it can operate, he said.

The seven 802.11a products and one dual-band 802.11a/b product that were certified as interoperable on Thursday all are part of Wi-Fi’s testbed for future 802.11a tests, Eaton said.

The alliance certified the following 802.11a products:

– Atheros Communications Inc. AR5001AP Reference Design Access Point Model AR5BAP-00021A;

– Cisco Systems Inc. Aironet 1200 Series Access Point Model AIR-AP1220A;

– Cisco Aironet 5GHz WLAN Adapter Model AIR-CB20A;

– Intel Corp. Intel Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN CardBus Adapter Model WCB 5000;

– Intermec Technologies Corp. MobileLAN AccessPoint Model 2106;

– Intersil Corp. Indigo Station Card Model ISL 37703C;

– and Proxim Inc. Orinoco 5GHz Kit with AP-2000 Access Point.

The one dual-band product certified is the Atheros AR5001X CardBus Reference Design Board. Dual-band products need to be tested for interoperability with both kinds of networks as well as for roaming between 2.4GHz and 5GHz access points, Eaton said.