WiFi alliance adds to 802.11g confusion

by Guy Kewney | posted on 20 November 2002

Has the WiFi Alliance lost its marbles? Within minutes of seeing Linksys promise to ship three new devices based on the IEEE's 802.11g standard - five times the speed of 11b but using the same spectrum - the WiFi Alliance has jumped into the puddle with both feet, saying it won't certify interoperability for 11g till nearly 2004, and won't call it 11g, either!

Guy Kewney

According to Stephen Lawson of the IDG News Service, the Wi-Fi Alliance has noble aims. It plans "to make sure dual-band wireless LAN clients can efficiently find and hop onto the fastest network available even if it was made by a different vendor," says a report by Lawson on the PC World site.

The good news is that the WiFi badge-issuers are going to certify the other 54 megabit products - 802.11a. But that is WiFi5, which runs on a different spectrum at 5 GHz, compared to the 2.4 GHz used by WiFi. When it comes to the other 54 megabit standard, 802.11g, the Alliance has gone completely dippy.

Lawson reports that products built to the IEEE 802.11g standard, which he describes (accurately) as "a nearly complete specification that would deliver 54 mbps bandwidth on the 2.4-GHz spectrum," probably won't be certified as interoperable by WiFi until the fourth quarter of 2003.

The warning is attributed to WiFi spokesperson Brian Grimm, who adds that when they are certified, WiFi won't call them 802.11g products,but "54 mbps 802.11b" because focus groups of potential customers have shown users are confused by the alphabet soup of wireless LAN standards.

The result, of course, will be even more confusion, as WiFi Alliance members refer to a non-existent standard -- 54-megabit 11b - while vendors have already started manufacturing 11g-labelled goods.