Wi-Fi Alliance Gets Managing Director

By Eric Griffith

June 12, 2003

The group that handles 802.11 product interoperability testing has hired its first full-time employee, one who will help steer the growth of the Alliance's programs such as the Wi-Fi ZONE for hotspots, and expansion of lab testing to cover product usability.

Frank Hanzlik has this to say about his new job as managing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance: "I'm walking into a super organization."

Wi-Fi and 802.11 networking is not new to Hanzlik, who is stepping down as the vice president of marketing and product management for fabless semiconductore company Mobilan to take on the job. He's been a member of the Alliance since 2000, but with this move, he become the first full-time, dedicated employee of the Alliance, reporting to the board of directors. Hanzlik has worked in technology for 16 years, having previously held positions at Dell where he helped launch their first Wi-Fi products in 1999, and before that at Motorola in their LAN and cellular businesses.

The Wi-Fi Alliance began life as the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) back before the term "wireless Ethernet" died a withering death (helped along by the Alliance turning the term "Wi-Fi", short for Wireless Fidelity" into the term of choice). It is an industry consortium with members from over 180 companies whose primary focus has been on the lab-based testing of any-and-all 802.11-based products to make sure they'll interoperate when working with products from other vendors. More recently, the Alliance announced a program called Wi-Fi ZONE that would certify and brand public-access hotspots.

Why get a managing director now after so many years? Hanzlik says the board and members, all of which have regular full-time jobs to attend to, were struggling with how to scale and grow the Alliance in the best way.

"The key motivation from the board perspective is that...they needed additional management leadership, to manage the growth of the alliance," says Hanzlik. "It's extra support for the outlying initiatives."

While there have been positions in the Alliance such as executive director from the get go, they've all been administrative. Hanzlik says the managing director's job will be broader in scope than just simple administration.

Still, he admits that it's too early to say what day-to-day responsibilities will include. He will become the primary spokesperson for the Alliance, a job that has been handled by multiple people in the past.

"We wanted more centralization with one key spokesperson," Hanzlik says. "We wanted to make sure we're consistent and cultivating the right relationships."

What's next for the Wi-Fi Alliance under Hanzlik's direction? He said the key initiative is the expansion of the certification program for 802.11-based products to include usability testing, toward the end of improving the experience for end-users. A group in the Alliances is already working on a best-practices document toward defining just what makes a "good experience" for Wi-Fi users. And of course, they will continue to push the Wi-Fi ZONE program, which the Alliance says now has about 3000 locations in 30 countries.

Hanzlik calls the ZONE program "key to the organization. We're in a unique position to manage the neutral list." (Jupitermedia, which owns 802.11 Planet, also runs its own list of hotspots at HotSpotList.com.)

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