Mix and Match?
The good news from the testing that I've done so far is that everything I tested at least connected and transferred data. I didn't run across the 802.11b "short preamble" problem, and I could use Linksys or Buffalo Tech clients just fine with each other's APs or routers.
Warning! Marketing Buzzwords at Work!
As if things weren't confusing enough, the marketing machines at draft-802.11g manufacturers are hard at work all trying to carve out a piece of brand recognition. (After all "draft-802.11g doesn't sound very sexy does it?)
Wireless chipmaker Broadcom started it all (and you could say started the whole draft-802.11g mess) with their "54g" branding program, which even has its own website.
Although Linksys is listed as a "54g supporter" on the 54g.org website, they've launched their own branding campaign for "Wireless-G" (and, of course, "Wireless-B"), saying it's just their way of trying to "make it easy" for consumers. Actiontec apparently agrees with Linksys and has also branded their upcoming draft-11g products with "Wireless-G", even though they are based on Intersil's chipset.
Not to be outdone, D-Link is using "Xtreme G" as their draft-11g rallying cry.
Catchy product names or not, it's all draft-802.11g at this point!
However, once again, you need to pay attention to what manufacturers are not saying, especially with regard to interoperating with other manufacturers' draft 802.11g products. To get a feel for this, I looked through manufacturers' product literature or asked manufacturers: "What is your position as to the interoperability of your products with draft-802.11g products from other manufacturers?". Here's what I found:
The product description for their AirPlus Xtreme G DWL-2000AP Access Point says "...its transfer rate can be up to five times faster when the wireless network is comprised of other D-Link AirPlus Xtreme G products such as the DWL-G520 Wireless PCI Adapter, DWL-G650 Wireless Cardbus Adapter".
Their WBR-G54 Access Point data sheet prominently displays the "54g compatible" logo, but doesn't really explain what the logo means.
Has a "54g compatible" logo sticker on their WRT54G router but none of its draft-11g product material says anything specifically about interoperability. All products do, however, say either that they're compatible and/or interoperable with 802.11b products.
Actiontec (emailed response)
While we always try to ensure interoperability with other manufacturers products, it is impossible to guarantee complete interoperability until there is a testing body in place to qualify each product. This applies to both draft and final specifications.
NETGEAR (emailed response)
NETGEAR's goal is to provide universal compatibility and reliable connections, even though the Wi-Fi 802.11g testing procedure will not be available until Summer 2003. We are thoroughly testing our draft 802.11g products with all currently available Broadcom-based 54g products. Although NETGEAR can't guarantee interoperability with other non Wi-Fi standard products, current tests of our 802.11g devices with Broadcom-based 54g products work well. We have tested 54g products from 2 different companies and are able to connect and achieve the same or better throughput.
All of which brings me to another key point:
KEY POINT #4: Assume nothing with regard to draft-802.11g product interoperability.
It's just too early to make general statements, especially given that only products based on one manufacturer's chipset have had any sort of time in end-users' hands! More "discoveries" are sure to come as gear based on Intersil and other chipmakers' products come on-line, and the latest 802.11g draft changes are incorporated into drivers and firmware.