Wi-Fi Alliance to jump early on IEEE WLAN standard

Claiming that they want to get the market moving, the Wi-Fi Alliance is starting its certification programme for wireless Quality of Service (QoS) in September before the official declaration of the standard by the IEEE. The IEEE is expected to declare the standard by the end of 2004 at the earliest.

WiFi standards really are a confusing alphabet soup. 802.11b is the original 11Mbps wireless running at 2.4GHz frequency, confusingly 802.11a runs faster at 54Mpbs but at the higher frequency of 5GHz, 802.11g is 54Mbps at 2.4GHz, 802.11i has enhanced security, 802.11h is concerned with spectrum and power control management, 802.11e will provide QoS. Even the trade finds it confusing, never mind the consumer, hence the creations of terms like WiFi.

WME (Wi-Fi Multimedia Extensions), part of 802.11e, will provide QoS which is important for a number of applications. Currently all packets of data on a WiFi network are treated equally, but for some sensitive types of traffic such as video, audio and voice it is more important that those data packets arrive before thing such as web pages. If the sensitive packets do not arrive on time or in order, the playback of them can become choppy – not what the consumer is expecting.

Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance explained the importance of this for home media networks, “You need to be able to manage bandwidth and prioritise the packets if you’re sending a video image from your PC to your television.”

Pre-empting the release of standard is a worrying trend that is becoming more common. A commercial entity or industry body gambles that they can possibly influence the market by releasing equipment with their pre-emptive ‘standard’. They hope that if the purchasing public has gone their route and bought substantial amount of equipment using it, it itself becomes the standard.

Wi-Fi Alliance