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WiFi Security will improve with new standards

Better security and quality has been promised with the two key improvements to WiFi devices. These improvements are scheduled to reach wireless network users this year as the adoption of wireless technology continues to grow within businesses and home users.

The Wi-Fi Alliance will certify products for the new 802.11i and 802.11e standards by September, said Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance. The 802.11i standard is the complete version of the preliminary security standard WPA introduced last year, while 802.11e is a new standard that will improve the quality of wireless networks that transmit voice and video.

Security has been one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of wireless networking. WPA replaced the flawed WEP last year. One of the main reasons is because WPA uses dynamic encryption keys, as opposed to the static keys used by WEP. 802.11i standard also adds AES technology, a stronger level of security than used in WPA.

Enterprises and governments, which need the highest level of security available, may have to replace some of their networking equipment to support the AES standard. Newer networking equipment released within the past three months will probably have enough power to handle the increased performance requirements of AES security. Network managers with older wireless devices should check with their supplier to see if that equipment will support a software download of the full 802.11i standard.

While security tops most lists of wireless networking concerns, the new 802.11e standard will help home users set up wireless media networks and allow corporate users to deploy wireless handsets using VoIP technology. This standard greatly improves the quality by prioritizing traffic that must get through without delays or glitches, such as streaming video or voice transmissions.

Upgrading to 802.11e will make wireless VoIP networks a realistic choice for network managers. Later this year, handset makers will start rolling out dual-mode phones that support wireless Lan technology such as 802.11 as well as wide-area network standards such as GSM.

In September, the Wi-Fi Alliance will begin certifying products that use a subset of 802.11e called WME technology to improve quality of service. WME identifies packets of voice, video, audio or other types of data and prioritizes their delivery based on traffic conditions. The full 802.11e standard will also include an additional technology called WSM. This technology will allocate slices of bandwidth to various types of wireless data, and increase that bandwidth as needed for voice or video applications.

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