Wireless-J standard opens Japan to the Wi-Fi world

By Matthew Broersma, Techworld.com |  Mobile & Wireless

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) approved a new wireless standard that will expand international Wi-Fi roaming to Japan.

The 802.11j standard will also apply to wireless equipment used by U.S. antiterrorism forces, and will affect the way spectrum is used in other countries.

It brings the 802.11 WLAN family -- branded Wi-Fi -- into line with Japanese regulations from August of 2002, which allocated spectrum in the 4.9GHz and 5GHz bands for indoor, outdoor and mobile applications. The standard also addresses Japanese legal requirements for parameters such as transmitter output power, operational modes, channel arrangements and spurious emission levels.

Since the 4.9GHz band has seen allocated to public safety and homeland security work in the U.S., the standard paves the way for standardized security-oriented equipment in that region. Wireless chipmaker Atheros Communications Inc., which participated in the formulation of 802.11j and was one of the first to announce support, said equipment makers are currently trailing Atheros-based equipment with U.S. police and fire departments.

The new standard is relevant to 802.11a, which operates between 5.725 GHz and 5.850 GHz -- Atheros said its equipment can take advantage of 802.11j via a firmware upgrade. The company said the impact of 802.11j isn't limited to Japan. "The standard focuses on the new Japanese rules for wireless LAN use," said Atheros general manager Tomoki Ohsawa. "However, it will have an impact in other countries where WLAN technology is progressively being used for hot spot, mobile and last-mile solutions."

802.11j is a standardized way for Wi-Fi equipment to move to new frequencies or change channel width to improve capacity and performance. This improves interoperability between 802.11 applications, Atheros said.

Thus far, equipment using higher bands has played a tiny part in the 802.11 market, but momentum has been building behind 802.11a, according to analysts. In August, Intel Corp. introduced the PRO/Wireless 2915ABG Network Connection, a notebook chipset that supports the 802.11a, b and g standards, which supports worldwide frequencies from 5.15 GHz to 5.825 GHz, as well as the Japanese bands, 802.11h and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)/WPA2 security certification. 802.11h is similar to 802.11j but adjusts for European regulations. Intel's support -- coming after that of Broadcom Corp., Atheros and others -- is likely to give 802.11a a significant boost in the market, according to Gartner.

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