GeekSpeak: October 28, 2002

WECA becomes Wi-Fi Alliance, starts 802.11a testing.

The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, the main marketing and testing body for wireless LAN standards, became the Wi-Fi Alliance Oct. 1. A week later, the group announced that interoperability certification testing for 5GHz 802.11a-based products will begin next month—and none too soon. Atheros Communications, Intersil and other companies 802.11a chip sets are in shipping products. Tests of the high-speed 5GHz 802.11a-compatible devices will lay the groundwork for dual-band 802.11a and 802.11b devices, Wi-Fi Alliance officials said.

Official Wi-Fi Alliance interoperability should be high on IT managers checklists for wireless product purchases because vendors differentiate wireless products based on "extended" features that may prevent them from fully cooperating. Organizations that already have 802.11a gear should pester Atheros for firmware upgrades to ensure these products meet Wi-Fi interoperability standards, which are expected in the first quarter of next year.

With a fight brewing between 802.11a and 802.11g to be the high-capacity, 54M-bps de facto standard, IT managers should keep an eye on the interoperability tests to make sure that equipment purchased today can support network traffic tomorrow.