The Wi-Fi Alliance will begin interoperability testing in June to certify products that meet the faster 802.11n Draft 2.0 standard for wireless LANs.
That certification process comes 21 months in advance of the final ratification of the 802.11n standard, which is now set for March 2009, five months later than an earlier deadline projected by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards body.
Compared with the current generation of Wi-Fi, the 802.11n standard promises higher speeds and longer range as well as better performance for streaming media.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, a trade group that represents 300 wi-fi product vendors, also announced a new logo that will be affixed to the products that it certifies after the testing process. The logo will feature the word "Draft" next to the letter "n" and the words "Wi-Fi certified."
News of the testing and the logo was announced shortly after the IEEE 802.11n working group said the final ratification would be pushed back to March 2009. Previously, final ratification had been set for October 2008. IEEE officials could not be reached for comment on the change.
Network managers at many large companies have expressed concern in the past year about moving to a product that is not based on the final ratification of the standard, although standards often take years for final approval.
Analysts were divided on whether a business should wait for a final ratification or move forward with a Draft 2.0-certified product later this year, especially since it will be nearly two years before the final ratification comes. However, a Wi-Fi Alliance official says with final ratification even further away, Draft 2.0 certification becomes more important.
"There's been plenty of discussion around this, with speculation that enterprises would wait for final ratification, but we're seeing that attitude changing, and starting to see test and budgeting within companies" for Draft 2.0 products, says Karen Hanley, senior director of marketing at the Wi-Fi Alliance. She would not name any companies planning tests, however.
"Some would say that 2.0 is there, but we don't really know, and in order to balance two extremes, we've decided to proceed with testing of 2.0 to enable a higher confidence level, both for home users and the enterprise," she says.
"With the final ratification now set for the first quarter of '09, certification testing for Draft 2.0 is even more important," since it will be longer than expected for customers to get fully ratified products, Hanley added.