Vendors of all shapes and sizes have been talking about the next-generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard for months. Until today, however, there was no way for these deployments to be certified for 802.11ac by the Wi-Fi Alliance. That changed today, with the formal launch of the Wi-Fi Alliance's Certified ac certification program. This will provide both vendors and end users with a certifiable way to ensure interoperability across compliant 802.11ac devices.
802.11ac promises greater bandwidth, with speeds of 1 Gbps, as well as improved concurrency. Multiple vendors, including Apple, Cisco, and Aruba, have already announced their respective 802.11ac solutions; the Wi-Fi alliance anticipates that early vendor solutions will now return to get their products certified.
"Vendors go through the certification program because it gives users the assurance that their product will work with other devices, and it also serves as a quality assurance indicator," Kevin Robinson, marketing manager at the Wi-Fi Alliance, told Enterprise Networking Planet.
As part of the new certification program, the Wi-Fi Alliance built a certified test suite, which includes chipsets and reference architectures from Broadcom, Intel, Marvell, Mediatek, Qualcomm, and Realtek. Robinson explained that though the various chipsets are part of the certification test suite, vendors should certify their entire product, not just the chips.
"We certify endpoint devices," Robinson said. "So a vendor that goes out and integrates a chipset from one of our certified reference designs still needs to consider a lot of things that could impact interoperability."
Robinson further stressed that in order to ensure a good user experience, the Wi-Fi Alliance certification certifies a given device in the same form that it is shipped to a consumer.
No new specific logo will accompany the 802.11ac specification.
"There is a single Wi-Fi Certified logo that means a device has gone through Wi-Fi Certified testing," Robinson said. "There is not a specific logo for .ac."
He added that as a product comes through for certification, if the device supports 802.11ac, the Wi-Fi Alliance will test for it. Vendors do not have the option of only certifying 802.11n on a device that also supports 802.11ac.
The Wi-Fi Alliance developed the actual test suite that determines compliance for certification. The Wi-Fi Alliance has over 55 members from vendors across the wireless networking landscape. Those members teamed up to make sure that devices will work well together. The group selects a representative group of devices to make up the test bed, devices against which every other device is tested to ensure interoperability. The testing process is mostly automated.
"The device is run through a series of test cases against each of the test bed devices," Robinson explained. "So we make sure it works with a broad set of devices."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.