In the last few days, the Wi-Fi Alliance gained two members - outside the normal run of Wi-Fi manufacturers. Airspan is a broadband wireless (read, WiMax) vendor, and Qualcomm is best known for cellular technologies.

The two companies joining the Wi-Fi group underlines the fact that Wi-Fi is now an essential item for metropolitan networks to reach end users, and also a key component of mobile handsets, allowing a choice of uplinks. The Alliance now has 200 members and - for instance with its recent moves to certify power-save products - is increasingly looking at handsets.

"Qualcomm joining the alliance is recognition that handset makers and cellular operators worldwide want unlicensed mobile access (UMA) in their phones, among other uses of Wi-Fi," says Glenn Fleishman, of Wi-Fi Networking News. Although the company has argued for its Ev-DO cellular data as a better way of networking cities, it is integrating Wi-Fi into its 3G chipsets, according to Unstrung.

Airspan, meanwhile, recently bought Radionet, a Wi-Fi hotzone equipment vendor, to allow Wi-Fi as an access method for the WiMax networks it is planning to sell.

At the same time as joining the Alliance, Airspan announced AS.NET, a range of products that combine Radionet's hotzone technology with its own wireless backhaul. The AS.NET range also includes point-to-point configurations for hotspot providers, and outdoor coverage.