It is increasingly obvious that standards processes are falling hopelessly behind the real time to market needs of vendors. In WiMAX and, particularly, Wi-Fi, markets suppliers are pre-empting ratified standards by ever longer margins. Initially, as with the 54Mbps 802.11g Wi-Fi system and with 802.16d, 'pre-standard' products were built to the finalized IEEE specification, but had not yet achieved any independent certification of this.
But the pre-standard products for the 100Mbps-plus 802.11n Wi- Fi extension are coming even earlier, over a year before the standard is likely to be set in stone, creating serious interoperability and performance risks for buyers. Last year the Wi-Fi Alliance took a tough line on such devices, saying it would take action against companies using the '802.11n' ahead of certification.
Now it is bowing to the inevitable and agreeing to certify a wave of prestandard products itself, a realistic move given the rush of fast Wi- Fi offerings into the market, but raising serious doubts over the future role of the IEEE and other such bodies. The Alliance's plan to have a two-stage certification process will not affect the current 'pre-n' equipment that is being launched by consumer WLAN suppliers such as Linksys and Belkin, but will be introduced in 2007 to coincide with draft 2 of the standard, currently under review.