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Testing Wi-Fi gear for standards compliance

Nov 03, 20032 mins
Network SecurityWi-Fi

Q: What is Wi-Fi certification? – Mike, Portland

A: The Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) is an industry group that has developed a set of test procedures to certify the interoperability of equipment based on the 802.11 standard. Initially begun with a single 802.11b testbed in a lab in Silicon Valley during 2000, the WFA now tests 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g  equipment in four countries on three continents.

Wi-Fi certification is evidence that the equipment bearing the certification logo has passed the interoperability tests of the WFA. In detail, it means that the equipment has been able to demonstrate its ability to meet certain performance criteria, when operating with the equipment in the WFA test bed, as well as demonstrating certain aspects of the 802.11 protocol operation.

In addition, the WFA has integrated interoperability testing for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), a standard developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance to improve upon the original WEP  algorithm in the 802.11 standard prior to the 802.11i specification being finalized.

Part of the requirement for certification is that Wi-Fi certified equipment must have a Wi-Fi compliant configuration “out of the box.” However, after the equipment is out of the box, configuration changes by the user can place it in a non-compliant state. It is difficult to provide details on WFA-approved configurations, as the WFA has a non-disclosure agreement that covers the details of their interoperability testing. But, by the design of the test plans, you can rest assured that all equipment receiving Wi-Fi certification will interoperate with all other equipment receiving Wi-Fi certification.

To see what equipment has received Wi-Fi certification, visit the WFA’s Web site.