Open Standards

"Raising the Level of the (Digital) Ocean": Cisco's Contribution to Wireless Standards

Man using a cellular phone

Andrew Myles, Manager Wireless and Security Standards, WSTG, and Chair, WiFi Alliance notes that "interoperability is absolutely vital for wireless, and is less important in fixed technologies." He identifies three stakeholders for wireless standards:

  • Stakeholder #1 is Standards such as 802.11, which provide complex, feature-rich open source offerings. Myles notes that all the many, complex options available through standards bodies impede interoperability.
  • Stakeholder #2, is WiFi Alliance, whose technical mission is to conduct interoperability tests against the wireless protocol, and pares the standard to a minimal offering. WiFi Alliance's marketing mission is to enable industry-wide branding and communication.
  • Stakeholder #3 is Vendors, such as Cisco, which has technical, marketing, and sales missions.  Vendors typically take advantage of WiFi Alliance's editing and testing of the standard, then add a differentiating feature such as security, Quality of Service (QoS), or routing.

After this differentiating feature is commercialized, the vendor contributes it back to the standards body to give other vendors access "to form a positive feedback loop and raise the level of the (digital) ocean," according to Myles. This process enables vendors to build on each others' work and to advance standardization across devices.

Cisco has provided core contributions to standards including 802.11k for measurement, 02.11r for roaming, 802.11v for management, and 802.11w for security.  Learn more about Emerging Wireless LAN Standards and Trends in Andrew Myles' Mobility TV webcast.