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Next Gen of Wi-Fi Planned for Summer

The next generation of wireless Internet products certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance is expected to hit shelves this summer, even though a final standard for the technology isn't due for another year, the industry group says.

The Wi-Fi Alliance was announcing Wednesday that it will begin certifying wireless routers, networking cards, microchips and other so-called "Draft N" products in June. The products, which take their name from the upcoming 802.11n technical standard, are expected to reach retail stores shortly thereafter.

Wi-Fi comes in several flavors -- "b," "a," "g," and soon "n" -- referring to the subsection of the technical guidelines issued by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technical professional organization.

The "n" version is expected to be about five times faster than the widely used "g" variety, though in practice, speeds rarely reach what's listed on the box. Draft N products are said to offer better reach through walls and into dead spots and will use multiple radios to send and receive data, making them better at handling big video files.

Gear rated to handle n-level wireless already is being sold. But the Wi-Fi Alliance said certified Draft N items from different vendors are guaranteed to work together and to work with older certified Wi-Fi products.

Karen Hanley, senior director of marketing for the Austin, Texas-based industry group, said the wireless industry shipped 200 million Wi-Fi products last year worldwide. Over the next few years, the category will expand from mostly laptops and access points to Wi-Fi enabled cell phones, televisions and video games.

Hanley said the final 802.11n standard isn't expected until 2009.

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