The IEEE would take its own time for ratification of the 802.11ac standard, as it did with the 802.11n standard, and given the work done by the Alliance for ensuring interoperability of networking products even when a standard is undergoing ratification and is yet to be finalized the current development is definitely a positive sign.
Final ratification of the 802.11ac standard isn’t expected to happen up until Feb 2014 but, despite this vendors have already started shipping their devices based on the draft standard since August last year but, there is no third party assurance as yet for the customers if these products do work as intended.
In its 2007 efforts, the Wi-Fi Alliance certified networking gear based on the draft 802.11n standard but, this time around the certification will not acknowledge the draft status of the 802.11ac and will simply be described as ‘Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ ac.’
The certification program will ensure that interoperability with every 802.11 certified device certified in the past ten years is maintained. It is also expected that manufacturers who shipped their 802.11ac products prior to the certification program will submit their products for certification after the fact.
To gain an official certification, devices should be able to operate both on 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. Any device that is not able to connect at 5GHz frequency using the 802.11ac protocol will use the 802.11n/b/g protocol and attempt to connect at 2.4GHz. These dual-band networking devices are capable of operating at both the frequencies because of which consumers using the 802.11ac certified devices will be able to use the 2.4GHz band for basic internet needs whereas use the less-crowded 5GHz band for high-bandwidth and high-performance applications such as media streaming.