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D-Link released Wi-Fi Alliance certification for the D-Link Xtreme N(TM) Router and Notebook Adapter: It’s not mentioned whether new firmware is needed for existing versions of this equipment to bring it up to the certified standard. Tim Higgins tested the D-Link equipment with its uncertified Draft 2.0 firmware, and found it lacking.
They promised June—they delivered June—but I was expecting, well, certified devices, not certification testing: The Wi-Fi Alliance has been asserting since last year that they would have a certification program in place during second quarter 2007 to test Draft N (early 802.11n equipment) devices against Draft 2.0, an expected milestone in IEEE work on the standard. Today’s press release shows they met the mark, but I had naively assumed that there would certified devices on the market in June, too. Alas, not so. The certification program has begun, and new firmware and equipment will be out this summer. How soon, it’s unclear.
The Draft 2.0 compliant firmware that manufacturers have promised, and that chipmakers apparently completed months ago, will likely not be released for the majority of Wi-Fi devices with Draft N until certification is finished for that device in case things need to be fixed.
Draft 2.0 should improve interoperability among devices, and it adds three separate protection mechanism for the 2.4 GHz band to prevent N from using more spectrum than a comparable G device in the presence of other networks. In 5 GHz, where there’s much more “room,” only two of those mechanisms are needed, because interference is much less likely and easier to solve. (See “How Draft N Makes Nice with Neighbors,” an article I wrote after interviewing chipmakers that appeared 2007-02-16.)
Update: The Wi-Fi Alliance told me that certification could take as little as “hours,” and that 20 products were booked for testing on the first day of certification. That’s fine, but I’m interested in the cycle from certification to firmware release. I had really expected that certification results along with updated firmware would occur within the quarter, but I am just too darned optimistic.
Tim Higgins, meanwhile, is not very happy with his testing of pre-certification Draft 2.0 updates from D-Link. They don’t conform to his reasonable interpretation of the co-existence mechanisms for N and earlier B/G devices in the same frequency ranges.
Morrisville State College could be the first large-scale buildout of Draft N equipment for a wide-area wireless LAN: They plan to have 900 Meru APs with 802.11n installed by September for the 1,800 students. Each node is $1,500 at retail—holy smokes! That’s the price of early deployments. Meru’s regular 802.11g nodes run half that at retail.
I have a problem with the radio count noted in the article. Two radios in the AP are described, one each for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Incoming students will receive Lenovo ThinkPad’s with 802.11n installed and preset to the 5 GHz band. However, the 2.4 GHz band is described as being broken into a 20 MHz 802.11b/g dedicated channel and a 40 MHz 802.11n channel. That’s not exactly how a single radio functions. You’d need two separate 2.4 GHz radios for that purpose. And most of the 802.11n experts and chipmakers I’ve spoken to don’t recommend running 802.11n in this fashion.
The college was still using a 2 Mpbs 1999 era Raytheon Raylink system for their network! There’s another New York college, Mount Saint Mary, that made a leap from RangeLAN systems in the late 90s to 802.11a back in 2002 (!!) using Proxim gear. They were way ahead of their time, but they also had Morrisville’s advantage: they were helping students get the right gear at a decent price (or rolled into tuition).
In this article in Macworld, I explain how to mesh an 802.11n and an older network for best advantage: My advice is that you can take an existing 802.11g gateway, like the older AirPort Extreme Base Station, and connect it to the new 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station set to 5 GHz to obtain the best speeds from older and newer devices.