Gartner warns against buying uncertified Wi-Fi devices

Research firm Gartner Inc. is warning companies to hold off on making investments in 802.11g wireless LAN (WLAN) technology until products can be properly certified by the nonprofit Wi-Fi Alliance.

Jumping on the 802.11g bandwagon may result in interoperability problems with other 802.11g devices, as well as older 802.11b wireless LAN technology, Gartner said.

Like Wi-Fi devices that use the popular 802.11b standard, 802.11g wireless devices operate in the 2.4GHz band. However, 802.11g devices support much faster data transfer rates than those using the 802.11b standard, 54Mbps as opposed to 11Mbps, making them better suited for enterprise network environments.

In February, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that it would begin certifying 802.11g products after the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) approved the final standard for 802.11g later this year, according to a statement released by the organization. The alliance is in the process of developing an 802.11g interoperability test program based on the most recent draft of the standard, it said.

When finalized, Wi-Fi Alliance certification will test both mandatory and optional components of the IEEE 802.11g standard, including the ability to support the 54Mbps rate. Backward interoperability with Wi-Fi certified 802.11b products will be tested, as will performance in mixed 802.11b / 802.11g network environments, the Alliance said.

Compliant products will feature a new element on their capabilities label indicating support for the 54Mbps rate in the 2.4GHz band, the Alliance said.

Despite the lack of a firm 802.11g standard, competition for the high-growth WLAN market has prompted hardware vendors to push 802.11g products to market. Those products might not meet the certification criteria for 802.11g operation when those criteria are finalized, leading to interoperability problems, especially in networks using products from more than one vendor, Gartner said.

Certified 802.11g products should be available in the fourth quarter. Until then, Gartner analysts recommend that companies stick to using certified 802.11b devices. Companies intent on purchasing uncertified 802.11g wireless devices or devices that support both standards should pay no more than they would for 802.11b devices, Gartner said.

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