Consumer Wi-Fi on the Rise, Spilling Into the Workplace - Page 2

By Lisa Phifer

January 06, 2011

Looking into 2012 - and beyond

After 11 years and over 9,000 Wi-Fi certified products, the Wi-Fi Alliance isn't done. In fact, it's branching out to target new vertical and horizontal market needs.

Two new programs are already well underway to further increase throughput: Wi-Fi certified 60 GHz and Wi-Fi certified Very High Throughput in 5 GHz. The former is focused on in-room use cases, like streaming uncompressed HD video between media players and TVs, while the latter will ensure interoperability between longer-reach IEEE 802.11ac standard products. Both are slated for launch in 2012, but Morris speculated that early "pre-standard" products might emerge by the end of this year.

Another program is underway to specify Wi-Fi certified hotspots. "Here, we're looking to provide secure and easy authentication for hotspots, which will enable other initiatives underway elsewhere, like roaming between hotspots and hotspot operators," said Morris. Little is publically known about this program, but this could be the secret to finally making 802.1X (and by extension, WPA2-Enterprise) broadly usable in public hotspots.

But one program of keen interest to businesses--Voice Enterprise--has been simmering on the stove for several years. When asked about this program, Morris said "This is an ambitious program focused on a very demanding environment. Moving from the group of proprietary solutions available today to an interoperable standards-based environment is ambitious. But growth in mobile Wi-Fi handsets has increased the value of interoperable solutions." Alliance members are now in the final stages of "plug fest" testing, with certification program launch slated for mid-2011.

Finally, the Wi-Fi Alliance plans to expand its horizons by gathering Wi-Fi requirements from two key verticals: healthcare equipment manufacturers and smart home appliance manufacturers. The Alliance is also expected to play a role in establishing requirements for outdoor Wi-Fi products that will eventually make use of recently-freed TV white spaces spectrum. These expansions are still in their infancy, but illustrate how the Wi-Fi Alliance can continue to play a useful role by bridging the "knowledge gap" between those who use Wi-Fi devices and those who manufacture them.

But, for IT organizations focused on what must be addressed in 2011, the message is clear: a new crop of Wi-Fi enabled consumer products and handsets are headed your way. Many of them are going to support Wi-Fi Direct - if not in 2011, then certainly by 2012. Ignore this explosive growth at your own risk--just because they're consumer Wi-Fi products does NOT keep them out of your business facilities or away from your business data. Look for ways to leverage these new products, to monitor their use, and to assert control where necessary.

Lisa Phifer owns Core Competence, a consulting firm focused on business use of emerging network and security technologies. An avid fan of all things wireless and frequent contributor to Wi-Fi Planet, Lisa has reviewed, deployed, and tested 802.11 products for nearly a decade.

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