More Updates on 802.11-2012 and the State of Wi-Fi

There are many 802.11 specifications ratified or in the process of being ratified. Periodically the IEEE rolls up all these changes to help address functional overlap and to ensure interoperability. This is what 802.11-2012 is all about, and we recently had a webinar that detailed all the specifications (10) that were ratified into the 802.11-2012 amendment.

We had a lot of great questions after we presented the details on each specification in the update – if you are looking for specific information, please check out this blog post. Since some of the questions were really quite good we decided to repeat them here.

If you have any additional questions on these, or any other wireless protocols, please do not hesitate to comment at the end of this post and we’ll start a conversation.

What are the main security changes we’ll see in this new roll-up?
From a security perspective, the main change here is 802.11w, which specifies methods to increase the security of 802.11 management frames. Management frames are 802.11 packets that control communication on the WLAN, but do not contain data. Manipulation of management packets can lead to many serious security vulnerabilities. 802.11w significantly reduces the ability to maliciously manipulate management packets. Beyond that there are no new encryption protocols or suites, though security is certainly an integral part of many of the other specifications in 802.11-2012.

Do you know of any phones using 802.11r?
Without getting into specific model numbers, 802.11r is an integral part of the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) Voice-Enterprise certification program, so any equipment certified as part of this program, which was implemented in 2012, will certainly use 802.11r.

Do you have any concerns with the FCC opening up more 5GHz spectrum?
The more spectrum the better! But compatibility with other systems must always be seriously considered. Interestingly enough, one of the only major applications in the 5GHz space is Doppler Radar around airports. We suggest reading Matthew Gast of Aerohive’s latest blog on 802.11ac channel allocation and how this new protocol affects channels and the new spectrum changes ahead.

What is the different between 802.11ad and 802.11ac?
802.11ac is like a super version of 802.11n – more range and higher throughput for the same or even less overall power consumption. It continues to build on 802.11 as a networking platform. 802.11ad is quite different. It uses spectrum in the 60GHz range, which due to physics will operate over a much shorter range. It supports wireless connectivity over common computing standards like HDMI and PCIe, making it an ideal interconnect between computing devices. Equipment which uses 802.11ad will also need to support 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for overall network connectivity, and for connectivity back to the overall WAN. We discuss in more detail how these two specs are different and what you can expect from them in this blog post.

When will 802.11ac be ratified?
We don’t have a crystal ball to make this prediction, but it’s starting to look like early in 2014. But just as it was with 802.11n, manufacturers are already jumping on the bandwagon with hardware designed against a draft release of the spec. In fact, you can already find consumer-grade 11ac equipment on store shelves, with enterprise-grade gear right on its heels. And the WFA expects to be certifying 11ac devices later this year.

Does 802.11ac require new chips?
Yes, new chipsets are required to support the new technology.

Is there any work being done to help mobile device battery life?
From an 802.11 perspective, 11ac will help with mobile device battery life. It won’t help extend it, but it will provide much greater data rates for the same power consumed. This will help mobile devices break past the 150Mbps plateau (802.11n 1-stream – the only viable alternative for battery-operated devices), reaching data rates of at least 450Mbps.

What is the difference between 802.11z and 802.11d?
These are very different indeed. 802.11d was implemented to ensure device compatibility with the many different regulatory requirements across the world. One of the key elements is a country code which allows a device to be set to a particular country or region, with the appropriate configuration and settings to meet the local regulatory requirements. 802.11z allows WLAN client devices to connect directly to each other, bypassing the typical link through an infrastructure AP. It is analogous to the ad-hoc mode from the early 802.11 days, but it includes the appropriate levels of authentication, security, and inter-device communication to make ad-hoc usable.

What is the effect on international distribution on encryption?
The encryption algorithms used in 802.11 are generally exportable, but equipment manufacturers in the US must comply with the export control rules of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the Commerce Control List (CCL). Export of encryption products to the “embargoed countries” is typically still not allowed.

Will there be a NIC that supports 802.11w?
802.11w is designed to use features that are already supported as part of other 802.11 specifications (like 802.11i) so NIC support should not be a problem.

2 thoughts on “More Updates on 802.11-2012 and the State of Wi-Fi

  1. Wireless Routers

    What are your thoughts regarding the fact that as routers become better, faster, and boast a higher range that internet providers in the United States continue to drag their feet when it comes to increasing connection speeds?

    While it’s fantastic that a router for under $100 can support ridiculous speeds it’s also a shame that in large cities like Los Angeles or New York that “fast” internet connection is translated as 10MBPS or so by the providers.

    I think the natural ceiling that will be hit is that people will start to realize that the brand spankin’ new, bad boy wireless router will not matter until Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T and their ilk make the investment in the future instead of focusing on fat profit margins that hamper growth.

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