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Wi-Fi Alliance to stem flood of returns

18 January 2007

While the wireless connected home remains a key target of both content providers and consumer electronics manufacturers, the pan-industry Wi-Fi Alliance has revealed that some 20 to 25% of wireless products were returned by baffled customers during 2006, writes Richard Dean.

The Alliance takes little comfort from the fact that this alarming rate of return, reported by The Ease of Use Roundtable industry organisation formed to address user problems in communications and computing technology, is actually an improvement on previous years. It hopes to combat the confusion with Wi-Fi Protected Setup, an optional certification program released on 8 January, which is designed to ease the task of setting up and configuring security on wireless local area networks within small office and home office (SOHO) environments, including video distributed across wireless IPTV links.

Supported devices include notebook computers, PDAs, cell phones, VoIP phones, MP3 players, digital still and video cameras, office projectors, printers and televisions, as well as traditional Wi-Fi networking devices such as access points (APs). Wi-Fi Protected Setup certified products are expected during Q1 2007.

Although all current Wi-Fi devices must support WPA and WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security modes, research conducted by Wi-Fi Alliance and Kelton Research last July indicates that 44% of users found enabling network security features to be moderately to very difficult.

With a simple combination of PIN (personal ID number) and PBC (Push-Button Configuration), the Alliance hopes to increase non-technical user’s ability to quickly set up a new Wi-Fi network or add new devices to an existing network without relying on technical support – and reduce those disgruntled trips back to the shop.

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