Group gears up for high-speed wireless testing

Consumers and corporations should be able to go shopping for a wireless LAN in the fourth quarter of this year and buy equipment certified to meet the IEEE 802.11a standard for high-speed connectivity, officials of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) said May 7 at the NetWorld+Interop trade show in Las Vegas.

Formal testing of products for certification with the 802.11a standard, which allows for a carrying capacity as high as 54Mbps at distances of about 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 metres), will begin in the third quarter, said Dennis Eaton, vice-chair of WECA and chair of the group’s technical committee, in an interview Tuesday. Products certified under the standard, also called Wi-Fi5, probably will begin shipping in the third or fourth quarter, he added.

The industry group also is studying another possible certification for products designed to support both 802.11a and the earlier 802.11b standard, also called WiFi, which offers 11Mbps maximum carrying capacity. A WECA task group is working to determine market requirements for dual-band systems, with the goal of establishing those by June. Based on those requirements, the WECA technical committee will devise tests, Eaton said. The tests might address issues such as how a client device roams between the two types of networks and whether it should appear to a network access point as one or two devices, he said.

Dual-band products represent the future of wireless LANs, according to WECA, because they offer backward compatibility with the large number of 802.11b networks and clients already in place.

WECA is operating a WiFi Pavilion on the show floor at N+I with 12 participating vendors, about half demonstrating products built for 802.11a, according to Eaton.

WECA has already certified about 320 products against the WiFi standard, Eaton said.

NetWorld+Interop continues through Friday.

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