The Wi-Fi Alliance is finally kicking off a certification program for routers, adapters, and other wireless networking gear based on the IEEE 802.11ac draft standard. The organization has a strong track record when it comes to ensuring that networking products will be interoperable even when the standards they’re based on have yet to be finalized, so this is a positive development.
As it did with the 802.11n wireless networking standard, the IEEE is taking its sweet time to ratify the 802.11ac standard. In fact, the responsible working group isn’t expected to finish its work until November, and final ratification isn’t expected until February 2014. That lengthy timeline hasn’t stopped manufacturers from shipping 802.11ac gear, of course; products based on the draft standard have been on store shelves since August 2012. But buyers haven’t had any assurances that those products will work together.
So why is the certification program launching now? “We want to ensure that the standard is substantially mature,” said Wi-Fi Alliance senior marketing manager Kevin Robinson in an embargoed interview last week. “There is work that we have to go through to ensure interoperability, and [we’re] fielding a test bed to certify that.”
The Wi-Fi Alliance launched a similar certification program back in 2007 for networking equipment based on the draft 802.11n standard. Unlike that effort, however, the 802.11ac certification program will not acknowledge the standard’s draft status and is being described as simply “Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ ac.”