IEEE set to ratify 802.11i standard

Members of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards board will meet on Thursday to vote on the final specification for 802.11i, an update to the current standard for Wi-Fi security, the chair of the IEEE 802.11 working group said Wednesday.

The draft specification is expected to pass, although it’s not a given until the final votes are counted, said Stuart Kerry, who leads the working group. The final specification was unanimously approved by the IEEE revisions committee on Wednesday, setting the 802.11i specification up for a final vote on Thursday during a meeting in Piscataway, N.J. he said.

The 802.11i standard adds the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) security protocol to the 802.11 standard for wireless LANs, Kerry said. Security has been a primary concern for IT managers reluctant to deploy wireless networks, but AES is a stronger level of security than found in the current Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security standard.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has designated AES as the security standard for wireless networks that carry government information.

Enterprises with newer wireless networking equipment should be able to download the new standard once it is ratified. However, IT managers with older products might need to upgrade their equipment to handle the extra processing requirements of 802.11i, the Wi-Fi Alliance said earlier this year.

The Wi-Fi Alliance plans to certify products for 802.11i starting in September.

Later this year, the IEEE plans to begin the final approval process for the 802.11e standard for wireless video and audio. This is expected to help improve the quality of service of wireless media networks. The Wi-Fi Alliance had expected the standard to be approved by the end of this year, in time for the holiday shopping season, but sources indicated Wednesday that the 802.11e approval process should carry over well into next year.

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