Can't decide whether to upgrade to a super-fast 802.11a wireless network or stick with the slower but cheaper 802.11b hardware? Well, the choice just got tougher. Millions of adapters for a third choice-802.11g-are already surging into the market. The "g" specification offers the same 54Mbps speed of the 802.11a, but in the 2.4GHz band used by the installed base of 802.11b networks, with more robust security. The "g" spec's backward compatibility with "b" networks could preserve older Wi-Fi investments, but the degree of compatibility remains to be seen.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers won't finalize the spec until this summer, enabling the Wi-Fi Alliance to begin testing and certifying the interoperability of different "g" devices. Some vendors have already shipped more than 2 million 802.11g adapters they claim have Wi-Fi certification. How? Such products are "certified" only for backward compatibility with 802.11b adapters-not with each other. Before year's end, you'll see products supporting combinations of these protocols and enhancements to current standards.
Daniel Tynan, a freelance writer in Wilmington, North Carolina, writes about technology for a variety of publications.