The Wi-Fi Alliance announced Wednesday that it will begin certifying wireless routers, network cards, microchips and other so-called "Draft N" networking products in June, even though a final standard for the wireless technology isn't due for at least another year.
The products, which take their name from the upcoming 802.11n technical standard, are expected to reach retail stores shortly thereafter.
Wi-Fi comes in several flavours— "b," "a," "g," and soon "n"— referring to the subsection of the technical guidelines issued by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a technical professional organization.
Various manufacturers, impatient at delays in finalizing the official "n" Wi-Fi standard, have been offering faster wireless gear for some time under names such as "wireless N" or "pre-N".It isn't based on a common standard, so there's nothing to guarantee that pre-N equipment from one company will work with that produced by another.
The official"Draft N" version of the IEEE Wi-Fi standardwill guarantee compatibility among certified products from different manufacturers, as well aswith older Wi-Fi networking equipment. It is expected tooffera maximum data rate of up to 248 megabits persecond —about five times faster than the widely used "g" variety —although in practice, speeds rarely reach what's listed on the box.
Draft N products are alsoexpected to offer better reach through walls. Theywill use multiple radios to send and receive data, making them better at handling big video files.
Karen Hanley, senior director of marketing for the Austin, Texas-based industry group, said the wireless industry shipped 200 million Wi-Fi products last year worldwide. Over the next few years, the category will expand from mostly laptops and access points to Wi-Fi enabled cellphones, televisions and video games.
Hanley said the final 802.11n standard isn't expected until 2009.