By Eric Griffith
June 29, 2007
Fountain Valley, California-based D-Link says its router and network card are the first two products to get certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance for interoperability between products supporting the 2.0 draft of 802.11n. (The first after the testbed of products they were tested with, that is.)
The products are the $180 D-Link Xtreme N Gigabit Router (model DIR-655, below) and the $120 Xtreme N Notebook Adapter (DWA-652).
Netgear followed up later with its own announcement that its RangeMax NEXT Wireless-N Router – Gigabit Edition (model WNR854T) and RangeMax NEXT Wireless-N Router (WNR834B) are both Wi-Fi certified as well.
The Wi-Fi Alliance announced earlier this week that testing had begun, thus meeting their previously-announced deadline of June 2007. Testing includes interoperability between 11n devices, use of WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) for security, and the ability to work with the existing 802.11a/b/g products on the market. The Alliance says it has certified 3,500 of the latter.
The decision to test 11n product was somewhat controversial, since 11n is still only in a draft state with the IEEE, albeit a very stable version 2.0 draft. This was the first time the Alliance had said it would test interoperability for an unfinished standard. When the decision was announced last summer, Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Alliance, explained the decision by telling Wi-Fi Planet, “There’s a lot of pre-N products shipping, and there will be more next year. To make sure people have a good experience, we think an interoperability program is paramount.” And he was right: there’s no lack of 802.11n products.
Even enterprise Wi-Fi infrastructure vendors who generally eschew standards that aren’t yet ratified have begun to announce 11n capability. Last week, for example, Trapeze Networks became the latest Wi-Fi controller company to announce an 802.11n access point — along with new controllers with 28 Gbps of throughput via two 10-Gigabit and 8-Gigabit ports to handle the extra load 11n may provide. AirMagnet is updating its Laptop Analyzer product to look into 11n networks, since the technology is growing ever more prolific.
The first Wi-Fi products are always for the early adopters and enthusiasts, however, and with this D-Link announcement, that’s unchanged. 802.11n improves upon the speed and range of previous 802.11a/b/g products, while working in the same frequencies and remaining backward-compatible with them.
In-Stat says D-Link’s share of the draft 11n market jumped 66% from Q4 2006 to Q1 2007. The company is offering firmware upgrades to all of its Xtreme N products to support Draft 2.0 — that includes the router and PC card, as well as a PCI desktop adapter and an ExpressCard. D-Link also plans a new dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz) 11n router, the DIR-855, but this was announced six months ago and has yet to ship.
The older RangeBooster N products and other MIMO-based products from D-Link are not getting an 11n draft 2.0 update.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has testing facilities checking 11n draft 2.0 equipment in several regions, including Spain, Taiwan, Japan and California. Each lab is independently operated. Last month, the Alliance unveiled its new logo for consumer packaging of 802.11n products:
The Alliance announced the testbed of products it would use for the 11n testing last month. Those products are the first 11n-certified products by default, though most are reference designs from chipmakers, which product vendors can use as a template. They include designs from Atheros (the D-Link products use Atheros Xspan chips), Broadcom, Marvell and Ralink, each with a router/AP and client card. However, a Cisco access point and Intel’s 4965AGN Wi-Fi chip for the Centrino Pro/Centrino Duo chip sets are also included. Individual laptops with the Intel chip will have to go through separate testing to get their own Wi-Fi Certified seal.