The wireless ethernet compatibility Alliance last week began certification testing for 802.11a WLAN products, bringing a little clarity to the alphabet soup of wireless LAN standards.
Products that pass the tests will be granted Wi-Fi-certified 802.11a status, said Brian Grimm, a spokesman for WECA, in San Jose, Calif.
Products that support 802.11a promise data throughput speeds of up to 54M bps. Access points for 802.11a have been available for several months from several vendors, but until recently, all of them used chips from Atheros Communications Inc.
"April 17 was the first date that there were chip sets from two companies, Atheros and Cisco [Systems Inc.]," Grimm said. "It didnt make sense to have interoperability tests for a single company."
WECA, the main marketing and testing body for WLAN products, has been wrestling with 802.11a testing for a while. In November, WECA said products that support the IEEE 802.11a standard would automatically receive Wi-Fi-5 certification if they passed WECA tests. Earlier this year, however, the organization backtracked and debated a requirement that products support other 802.11 standards to achieve the certification.
The issue arose because many vendors plan dual-band products that support both 802.11a and the currently popular 802.11b. 802.11b, better known as Wi-Fi, supports throughput rates of up to 11M bps.
Grimm said WECA has decided to certify only 802.11a products for now and will have announcements regarding other combinations of 802.11 standards next month.
WECA is testing more than a dozen products for 802.11a certification and plans to announce the first of these next quarter, said WECA officials.
Prospective customers said this is good news.
"For the long term, I dont have control over essentially two-thirds of the user base, and theyre going to buy whatevers least expensive," said Kevin Baradet, network systems director at the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., and an eWeek Corporate Partner. "If I can say, As long as it has this WECA logo on it, it should work, then we have a little control."