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Wi-Fi Alliance tackles growing technological tasks

Posted: 29 Jan 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Wi-Fi  Internet of Things  WiGig 

Certifying Wi-Fi devices since 1999, the Wi-Fi Alliance deals with more demanding challenges to meet requirements to optimise performance and decrease power for an increasing array of uses including the nascent Internet of Things.

"Every time you expand it makes things more complex. Technology demands change and you have to do more things to keep up," Kelly Davis, vice president of marketing for Wi-Fi Alliance, told EE Times. "Additionally, a device we certify today will need to be able to talk to devices we certified in March 2000."

Davis said the underlying Wi-Fi technology is adding capabilities and the Alliance is putting in place certification programmes to ensure backward compatibility for them. Among the new variants is 802.11ah—a lower power, longer range option with a smaller chip footprint. It is geared for IoT and coin cell operated devices and is due in 2017.

Separately vendors are testing 802.11ax, which improves power consumption in dense environments by adding additional networking efficiency mechanisms. "I think Wi-Fi tends to get a bad rap for power consumption but that's a red herring," Davis said.

The Alliance expects mobile operators to invest heavily in Wi-Fi deployments in the coming year to expand their footprint, provide data offloading and enable inter-provider roaming. In an effort to increase network efficiency and aid in roaming, the Alliance introduced Passpoint, an automatic network authentication protocol. Davis said cable companies such as Time Warner and phone carriers are beginning to deploy Passpoint, which handles Wi-Fi roaming between carriers using a handset's credentials.

Similar technology has been used in enterprise Wi-Fi networks for years, so there's a known path for migrating to it in the carrier space. "In some respects carriers have known how to do this for a long time, but extending this into Wi-Fi structure and getting it connected to the back end is the business challenge," Davis noted.

Separately, the Wi-Fi Alliance partnered with the WiGig Alliance in 2013 and is developing a 60GHz certification programme to augment Wi-Fi performance. The best use for 60GHz has yet to be determined, with some companies using it for backhaul in cellular networks and others as a cable replacement in the home or office.

As for its competitors, proper use cases and protocols for unlicensed LTE are still unfolding, Davis said. "It's widely recognised that industry is going to need to work on good co-existence methods."

- Jessica Lipsky
  EE Times





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