In a change of strategy, the WiFi Alliance has confirmed plans to launch a certification scheme for 802.11n Draft 2.0 products in late June.

The Alliance hadn't intended to certify products released before the final 802.11n specification appears, but gave in to market pressure to launch the scheme.

The group originally intended to wait until the wireless standard was fully ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), but with that organisation unlikely to finalise the spec until March 2009, a certification scheme for the 802.11n products (including the AirPort Extreme) now available makes sense, the Alliance believes.

The certification scheme will launch in June. Products that gain accreditation will be able to carry a new logo on their packaging.

In theory, 802.11n can offer up to five-times the throughput and up to twice the range of previous-generation WiFi gear. As well as file transfer and internet access, the as-yet-unratified standard is tough enough to handle demanding applications such as streaming HD video and online gaming with multiple users on a single network.

Certification will help purchasers choose tested products that offer broad interoperability, security and guarantee backward compatibility.

Ken Dulaney, vice president at Gartner Research, observed: “Consumers can now purchase products with improved performance and will be assured of interoperability. Prospective buyers should understand that the WiFi Alliance will provide future certification for the eventual 802.11n final specification and assess its own timeframe for a movement to 802.11n.”
A white paper entitled Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 802.11n draft 2.0: Taking Wi-Fi to the Next Level, as well as a product search tool for certified products, is available from the WiFi Alliance website (though the site is unavailable at time of writing).