The standard, which offers bandwidth of 24mbps in the 5GHz band, compared to 802.11b's 11mbps in the 2.4Ghz band, is currently not available in the EU because of fears of clashes with Nato satellite uplink signals. However, it is hoped that issues can be resolved.
The Radiocommunications Agency is due to publish a final statement in June, following a consultation period, but some manufacturers are already shipping 802.11a network cards and access points. These products, which allow roaming between both 802.11 standards, are only legal in the US.
Network equipment supplier Proxim is confident that the way can be cleared for 802.11a equipment in Europe. Anthony Fulgoni, northern European sales manager at Proxim, said, "We have a positive view and we hope it will be ratified sooner rather than later. The Radiocommunications Agency wants to resolve two requirements for ratification in Europe: TPC [transmit power control] and DFS [dynamic frequency selection]."
DFS and TPC protect radar systems and satellite uplinks, which are incumbent 5GHz users, from interference by wireless Lans.
The US Army has decided that 802.11b networks are secure enough to carry sensitive but unclassified data as long as the Wireless Lan is protected by security technology that complies with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Fips 140-1 cryptography certification process. The army now plans to buy 6,000 wireless gateways and associated software to connect its Lans to its mobile radio network.