Wi-Fi Alliance orders vendors to play fair

Wireless-equipment makers who offer faster services at the expense of interoperability could lose their certification

The industry body that certifies wireless equipment is clamping down on irrresponsible manufacturers who are jeopardising the widespread adoption of the technology by releasing incompatible products. 

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced this week that companies that include proprietary extensions within 802.11x equipment that interfere with the performance of other Wi-Fi products would be refused certification, or could even see it revoked from equipment already on the market.

This is an attempt to "allow for product innovation while assuring that all Wi-Fi certified products consistently meet consumer expectations about quality and performance", according to an Alliance statement.

The crackdown is being implemented in response to vendors adding extra features to Wi-Fi kit. Typically, these offer extra security measures or faster speeds. One popular add-on is to boost the performance of an 802.11g network by combining two or even three channels together -- pushing bandwidth over the 100Mbps mark.

But there have been reports that these tweaks are hampering interoperability between different vendors' kit, which would be deeply damaging to the whole certification process.

Last year, two vendors fell out over this issue. Broadcom claimed that Atheros's Wi-Fi kit -- which included a turbo mode that boosted throughput to a maximum 108Mbps -- interfered with its own equipment.

Certification lets users buy kit from a range of suppliers and know that they will work together. Some vendors have attempted to steal a march on rivals by launching pre-certified kit, citing customer demand, but critics say it risks undermining the whole process.