Wi-Fi group to certify battery-saving tools

The Wi-Fi Alliance on Tuesday is set to attack one of the main problems with wireless LAN phones by certifying features to extend battery life.

The industry group that certifies interoperability of Wi-Fi products is adding a label it calls WMM (Wireless Multimedia) Power Save, which identifies products that have reduced the power needed to use multimedia applications over wireless LANs, said Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the alliance.

Using a wireless LAN for VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol), streaming video and other multimedia applications increases the power consumption of Wi-Fi, which already tends to drain battery power because of ongoing searches for nearby access points, said IDC analyst Abner Germanow. The size and weight requirements of Wi-Fi phones as well as dual-mode cellular and WLAN handsets, plus the need to carry them around all day, make power consumption even more critical.

"The gating factor on a lot of the different types of functionality has come down to power," Germanow said.

Equipment certified for WMM Power Save should extend battery life under multimedia use by between 15 percent and 40 percent, Hanzlik said. On Tuesday, the Wi-Fi Alliance will introduce the certification and also announce the first handful of products that have received the seal, he said. A variety of chipsets, product reference designs and devices from vendors including Atheros Communications Inc., Broadcom Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. have been certified in the first round, according to the group. There won't be a WMM Power Save logo on the boxes of certified products, Hanzlik said. Instead, information about each product's certifications will be available on the Wi-Fi Alliance's Web page.

WMM Power Save includes improved signaling capabilities and mechanisms for fine-tuning power consumption, Hanzlik said. It uses some elements of the IEEE 802.11e specification, a standard for improving multimedia on Wi-Fi that was approved in September, Hanzlik said.

Most of the rest of 802.11e will be included in the WMM Scheduled Access certification, which will be introduced in mid-2006, Hanzlik said. The original WMM certification, introduced last year, covers technology that can prioritize certain types of packets over others in a queue. WMM Scheduled Access will expand on that by essentially providing multiple queues so multimedia packets can travel more smoothly through the network, he said.

The need for longer battery life in Wi-Fi devices spans both consumer and enterprise users, Hanzlik said, especially for handsets.

"There's a very strong level of interest ... in trying to optimize the user experience there," Hanzlik said.

There are two basic types of devices for voice over Wi-Fi, according to IDC's Germanow: Wi-Fi-only phones for roaming around an office, which are essentially cordless phones, and dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi phones that workers or consumers can use at home, at work or on the road. Sales of mobile phones equipped with Wi-Fi (not necessarily all will use voice over Wi-Fi) will top 100 million per year by 2009, according to a 2004 IDC report.

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