The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has approved a wireless standard that will expand international Wi-Fi roaming to Japan.
The 802.11j standard will also apply to wireless equipment used by US anti-terrorism 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 been allocated to public safety and homeland security work in the US, the standard paves the way for standardised security-oriented equipment in that region.
Wireless chipmaker Atheros Communications, which participated in the formulation of 802.11j and was one of the first to announce support, said equipment makers are currently trialing Atheros-based equipment with US 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 but the impact of 802.11j is not 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 standardised 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 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, Atheros and others - is likely to give 802.11a a significant boost in the market, according to Gartner.
802.11a also has intrinsic advantages that make it a better bet than 802.11g for companies that need higher bandwidth, Gartner said.
"Including 802.11a technology will better protect enterprises against shortages in bandwidth during the next few years, since it contains far more channels, is faster and better accommodates interference," the company said in an August research note.
The company does not recommend 802.11g because it uses the same crowded 2.4GHz band as 802.11b, though 802.11g is needed to ensure compatibility with hotspots.
Matthew Broersma writes for Techworld.com