If all goes according to the latest schedule, September 2009 will be a historic month for the networking industry and for wireless networking in particular: The much-anticipated 802.11n specifications are set to be finalized. For many practical purposes, that finalization will be a formality. More than 600 products havealready gained 802.11n Wi-Ficertification issued by the Wi-Fi Alliance. In late July, the organization announced it would not change the baseline requirements of its certification program, meaning those products certified to the Alliance's Draft 2.0 specs are fully Wi-Fi certified.
In terms of field deployments, the spec finalization is also likely to be more a formality than a seismic shift in activity. ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com) has forecasted that 802.11n will achieve 45% of WLAN market share this year, and that number will approach 60% in three years. The article by Scott Thompson discusses cabling performance levels needed to support 11n transmission, aimed at helping guide the shrinking majority ofusers who have not yet deployed 11n in their buildings or across theircampuses.
Just before this issue was going to press, I got word that Fluke Networks had struck a deal to acquire wireless LAN test-equipment provider Air-Magnet. Just a few months ago, we quoted representatives of both organizations in an article laying out the value proposition for testing and analyzing wireless LANs. A main theme of that article was that 802.11n has been and will continue to be a game-changer with respect to the necessity of wireless LAN analysis. (See “The necessity of testing 802.11-based networks,” May 2009).
While the formal adoption of specifications may not change the technologies deployed for 802.11n networks nor have a dramatic effect on the rate of uptake for these devices, the actual deployment of 802.11n in a facility can change the landscape considerably for a user organization. A misconception exists that because 11n access points transmit using multiple-input/multiple-output technology, little care needs to be taken when placing them. As many have discovered the hard way, in some ways, quite the opposite is true. The location of 802.11n access points, as well as the performance levels of all the wires behind that wireless LAN, demands significant consideration during the design and installation processes.
So remember, even if a wireless device has the 802.11n Wi-Fi Certified mark on it, deploying it in a network still provides you an opportunity to show off your experience and expertise.