WLAN Organizations and Regulations

Roles and responsibilities of WLAN organisations:

I am going to start this blog by detailing the roles and responsibilities of organisations and regulatory bodies involved in creating and maintaining WLAN standards.

In WLAN Industry, there are three primary categories of organizations that guide the wireless industry. These categories include

  • Regulation
  • Standardisation
  • Compatibility.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) are examples of regulatory bodies.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is an example of a standards development organisation.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is a compatibility testing and certification group.

Interoperability of WLAN organisations:

It is important to understand what these organizations do, but it is equally important to understand how they work together.

As an example, consider the interdependency between the FCC and the IEEE or the relationship between the Wi-Fi Alliance and the IEEE. The FCC sets the boundaries within which the IEEE may develop standards.

The Wi-Fi Alliance tests equipment to certify it as being reasonably interoperable. These three organizations provide regulation, standardization, and compatibility services for WLAN technologies within the United States. The benefits to the consumer are clear.

When there are regulations in place, such as power output limits, it is easier to implement localized wireless networks with less interference from surrounding networks. When there are standards in place, such as the IEEE 802.11 standard, it is easier to purchase devices from different vendors that are interoperable.

Important WLAN organisations and regulatory domains:

Devices that operate in unlicensed bands do not require any formal licensing process, but when operating in these bands, the user is obligated to follow the government regulations for that region. The regulatory domains in different parts of the world monitor these bands according to different criteria, and the WLAN devices used in these domains must comply with the specifications of the relevant governing regulatory domain.

Below are the some main organisations responsible for setting the standards in WLAN regulations and products.

  • FCC (Federal Communications Commission), www.fcc.gov : The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates the devices operating in all frequency bands and provides unlicensed spectrums. The FCC is specific to the United States; other countries have different guidelines and regulatory organisations. Many other countries follow FCC regulations but also have their own regulatory domain governance.
  • ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), www.etsi.org : Chartered to produce common standards in Europe.
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), http://www.ieee.org: Creates and maintains operational standards.
  • Wi-Fi Alliance, www.wi-fi.com : Promotes and tests for WLAN interoperability
  • WLANA (WLAN Association), http://www.wlana.org: Educates and raises consumer awareness regarding WLANs.
  • CCX (Cisco Compatible Extensions): The CCX specification is for makers of 802.11 wireless LAN chips to ensure compliance with the Cisco proprietary WLAN protocols. For example, Cisco Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol (LEAP) and Extensible Authentication Protocol-Flexible Authentication via Secure Tunneling (EAP-FAST) are part of CCX

Few main WLAN regulatory domain:

  • Americas or FCC (United States Federal Communication Commission)
  • Europe or ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute)
  • Japan (MKK)
  • China
  • Israel
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan

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