Wi-Fi Alliance Begins 802.11ac Certification

Wireless broadband, Wi-Fi © 24Novembers, Shutterstock 2012

The Wi-Fi Alliance has begun certifying wireless equipment with the forthcoming 802.11ac standard

The Wi-Fi Alliance has begun to certify wireless gear based on the draft 802.11ac standard, despite it being months away from final ratification.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is launching its Wi-Fi Certified ac program for such networking devices as routers and adapters, as well as smartphones, notebooks, tablets and other computing devices, to ensure that these 802.11ac-based products will work with other Wi-Fi products from various vendors.

Certification Process

The IEEE is still working to ratify the 802.11ac standard, and it could take until early next year for final ratification to happen. However, networking vendors for the past year have been rolling out 802.11ac-capable products. For example, Cisco Systems in April unveiled an 802.11ac module for its Aironet 3600 Series access point, while Aruba Networks in May introduced its new Aruba 220 Series access points built specifically for the 802.11ac standard.

Wi-Fi alliance logoThrough the certification process, the Wi-Fi Alliance will ensure that not only will these myriad 802.11ac-capable products interoperate with each other, but also with wireless products that have come out over the previous years, according to Kevin Robinson, senior marketing manager for the Wi-Fi Alliance.

That compatibility has helped make Wi-Fi “one of the most successful technology stories ever,” Robinson told eWEEK. “It’s innovation with compatibility. A tablet today will run on a 2004 [wireless] router.”

Market transitions such as cloud computing, high-bandwidth applications like video, IT mobility and bring your own device (BYOD), are fuelling demand for greater speed and bandwidth from wireless networks. In addition, broadband carriers are continuing to look to offload traffic onto Wi-Fi networks where possible to reduce the crushing demand on their networks.

Traffic Increase

Cisco, in its Visual Networking Index, forecast that mobile data traffic will increase by 13 times by 2017, driven by the expected rapid growth in the number of mobile users, Internet connections and mobile video.

The Wi-Fi Alliance found that the use of Wi-Fi is growing significantly. The number of Wi-Fi devices in US households has doubled over the past five years, and on average there are four devices connected to the home Wi-Fi network during peak usage times, according to a recent study released by the group. In addition, 60 percent of the study’s respondents indicated they are using Wi-Fi for multimedia applications more now than three years ago.

The 802.11ac standard – also called 5G Wi-Fi – will bring significant improvements over the current 802.11n standard, including up to three times the speeds. It also will allow for greater network capacity, which will mean more devices can be connected to the network without impinging too much on performance, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Robinson.

In addition, 802.11ac will work in two bands – the 2.4GHz band Wi-Fi now works in, and the 5GHz band, where users can get a higher data rate. Robinson said most products that are certified for 802.11ac will be able to operate in both bands, and to support Wi-Fi Certified n products. The idea is that devices will use the less crowded 5GHz band for high-performance applications, and the 2.4GHz band for more basic needs, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance.

“We will be accelerating the shift to dual-band networking,” he said.

The first Wi-Fi Certified ac products will be available in the second half of the year. The first 10 certified products come from a range of vendors, including Intel, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Marvell, MediaTek and Realtek.

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Originally published on eWeek.