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Alliance: Wi-Fi Direct Devices Due Mid-2010

10/14/2009 08:00:00 AM Eastern

Austin, Texas - The Wi-Fi Alliance expects mid-2010 availability of the first Wi-Fi products that incorporate its planned Wi-Fi Direct specification, which will enable Wi-Fi devices to talk to one other without going through a wireless local area network (WLAN).

The alliance expects to begin certifying Wi-Fi Direct devices as interoperable under its certification program beginning mid-2010, with products available around the same time. Products will likely be demonstrated at January's International CES, the alliance said.

Wi-Fi Direct is suitable for AC-powered and portable devices, including cellphones, wireless mice and keyboards, digital cameras, printers, notebook computers, TVs and whole-house remote controls, the alliance said. It combines traditional LAN functionality with a long-range personal area network (PAN), enabling suppliers to reduce costs by combining LAN and PAN functions in one radio rather than incorporating separate Wi-Fi and PAN radios, said alliance executive director Edgar Figueroa.

The spec, still under development, will ride on top of the current 802.11a/b/g/n WLAN standards, will deliver the same data rates and ranges as those standards, and will consume no more power than the current WLAN standards, Figueroa said. It also incorporates WPA2 security and Wi-Fi Protected Setup to simplify security setup.

Wi-Fi Direct will overcome the limitations of the current peer-to-peer WiFi ad hoc spec, which has not been implemented widely, and it will deliver greater throughput and portable-device range than the current Bluetooth standard, the alliance said. Another advantage is more efficient bandwidth use. Wi-Fi Direct will use half the bandwidth of a traditional WLAN to transmit the same amount of data because data is sent directly from one device to another. In contrast, in a traditional WLAN incorporating a wireless access point, bandwidth is consumed when transmitting from one device to an access point and again when the data is retransmitted from the access point to the intended target device.

Many products incorporating the current standards can be upgraded with a software download to add Wi-Fi Direct, Figueroa noted.

Compared to the current Wi-Fi ad hoc spec, Wi-Fi Direct enables devices to automatically find one another and discover other devices' capabilities. The ad hoc spec also isn't as speedy as its WLAN counterparts, nor does it offer enterprise management tools, the alliance said.

Industry observers also contend that, compared to the traditional WLAN specs, the ad hoc spec does not offer as much security against unwanted incoming connections.

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