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Enhancements To Aid CE Sales

Enhancements planned by separate IEEE working groups will enhance the usefulness of wireless-Ethernet standards for entertainment and business applications, the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) said.

Here’s a progress report:

Quality of service: The optional IEEE 802.11e standard, which will support streaming audio and video, will probably be finalized in Q2 2002, said WECA marketing director Phil Belanger. The standard will prevent dropouts caused when digital data packets collide or when available bandwidth is filled up. The option could be applied to any IEEE wireless standards.

802.11e will lay the groundwork for consumer electronics companies to offer personal video recorders, residential gateways, mobile web pads and digital audio and video jukeboxes.

Security enhancements: For enterprise and home office users, however, security is a more important feature. Because of marketplace concerns over the robustness of 802.11b’s security features, an IEEE group in June finalized the 802.1x authentication protocol, which has begun to appear in new products and in Microsoft’s XP operating system. With 802.1x products, individuals are automatically provided a new authentication key (or code) at the beginning of each wireless session.

For Wi-Fi products purchased before the standard was finalized, new drivers can be downloaded to PCs to make their current products 802.1x-capable.

Additional security enhancements are in the works. The IEEE 802.11i Task Group, for example, will develop a new encryption solution, probably in Q1 or Q2 of 2002, Belanger said. Unfortunately, current Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi5 products can’t be upgraded to add the solution.

The task group is also working on an interim solution that would let users upgrade the drivers and firmware of existing Wi-Fi devices. That solution, which will change a user’s authentication key about once every second during a wireless session, will likely be finalized by the end of the year.

The solution will be required by WECA for future product certification.