Pre-certified 802.11n vendors risk red card

Having seen vendors disappoint customers with pre-certified 802.11g kit that didn't do the job, the Wi-Fi Alliance has announced tighter rules for 802.11n

The Wi-Fi Alliance appears to have lost patience with vendors who it feels have been jumping the gun by launching wireless products using standards that have not been ratified by the Alliance.

This trick was used by several manufacturers when they launched equipment that they claimed supported 802.11g, several months before the standard has been formerly certified.

In an announcement on Monday, the Alliance said it wouldn't tolerate the same performance over the forthcoming 802.11n standard, which is planned to offer connection speeds of up to 135Mbps. It claims that pre-standard products present an "inherent risk" to technology providers.

"Due to the potential for customer confusion, the Wi-Fi Alliance strongly discourages use of the term 'IEEE 802.11n' in association with any Wi-Fi CERTIFIED product," said the Alliance in an announcement.

"To help assure that Wi-Fi technology users continue to have a positive experience, the Wi-Fi Alliance will revoke the Wi-Fi certification of any product with claims of IEEE 802.11n capabilities if that product is proven to adversely impact the interoperability of other Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products," it added.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is made up of wireless vendors, which could be why it steered away from directly criticising the past behaviour of some members. It did, though, quote the concerns of a wireless analyst.

Vendors took advantage of unsuspecting buyers when they touted pre-standard technology for 802.11g that later did not meet the standard," said Ken Dulaney of Gartner.

"Left unchecked, the industry is unfortunately poised to repeat itself with 802.11n."

802.11n isn't expected to be standardised until 2006, and at this stage it isn't clear which of a number of competing technologies will be incorporated in the final version.

Despite this, the first kit referring to 802.11n is poised to slip onto the market. Belkin will begin selling "pre-802.11n" cards and routers later this month which contain antenna technology likely to be included in some form in the final standard.

The Wi-Fi Alliance says that its certification process is important because it tests whether equipment from different manufacturers is interoperable. Without it, a customer can't be sure that kit from one vendor will work with that of another.

In July, the Alliance warned that irresponsible manufacturers who are jeopardising the widespread adoption of the technology by releasing incompatible products would lose their certification.