Consumers may have heard of the 802.11ac wireless standard, which is said to offer the fastest wireless transfer speeds ever available, but many may not know what routers, adapters and other wireless-connected devices work with the new standard.
That’s where the Wi-Fi Alliance comes in. The group has officially kicked off a certification program for networking products based on the 802.11ac draft standard. The certification program helps users understand which products work on the network, and thus work with each other, allowing consumers to mix and match devices from different manufacturers.
The 802.11ac standard is being ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) LAN/MAN Standards Committee, but hasn’t been completely ratified yet, and isn’t expected to be until February 2014. However, products that support 802.11ac have been gracing store shelves since 2012. This also isn’t the first time the Wi-Fi Alliance has begun certifying products before IEEE ratification is complete.
Reports have indicated the 802.11ac standard will be capable of transferring data at the rate of 1.3 gigabits per second, which is three times the current standard of 450 Mbps in 802.11n implementations, the previous generation of wireless standards. The 802.11ac standard runs on the both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands.
In order to gain certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance, devices must be dual-band, meaning they can operate on both the 2.3GHz and 5GHz bands. This allows the products to drop down to the 2.4GHz band and use the 802.11n standard if it can’t connect at 5GHz on the 802.11ac protocol. Dual-band products can function on both frequencies at the same time, allowing consumers to use the older standard for simple tasks, while hopping on the 802.11ac standard for more high-performance tasks such as streaming video. The Alliance also told PCWorld that certified devices will be interoperable with every certified product from the past ten years.
As of the time of this writing, the Wi-Fi Alliance had certified 20 devices as capable of running on the 802.11ac standard. Among the products certified are routers from Cisco Systems, an adapter from Intel and smartphones from Samsung. Wi-Fi Alliance has a full, up-to-date list of certified devices on its website.