Government & Integration FAQ focus: why do products reach EOL?
If you are a government buyer, or a company that buys parts for integration into other parts, one source of frustration can be finding out a specific product you regularly purchase is being discontinued. We know why products get discontinued- technology moves forward and certain parts eventually reach their end of life. But understanding what causes a product to reach EOL may help in terms of pivoting to a newer part going forward.
When it comes to WiFi products, there are multiple components that go into their creation. But the primary one is a chipset, which is made by a different company than the product manufacturer. Larger chipset manufacturers include Realtek, Mediatek, Broadcom, Qualcomm, and others.
Chipset makers have their own schedules and timelines of chip production and phase-out. Manufacturers will typically enter contracts to buy a certain number of chips each year. When a chipset maker discontinues a chipset, the manufacturer may receive advanced notice, but in some cases no notice at all.
The FCC requires that every WiFi product with FCC certification not have any internal changes made to the product. If an internal change is made, the product must go through recertification and receive a new FCC ID. Even if the model number of the new product is very similar and the housing looks the same, a product with a different chipset than what you have purchased in the past may work very differently from that past product. Compatibility and drivers are based on chipsets. So if you change to a product with a different chipset, it may or may not be compatible with your specific needs. If you are a purchasor, it is always a good idea to confirm these changes with engineering before signing off, to ensure full compatibility with the intended purpose.
Some manufacturers will release new WiFi models with different chipsets just by adding a v2 (version 2) to the model number. For example, if you are used to buying part ABC123, you may see it available as ABC123 v2. This can be a confusing way to operate, because it may appear you are buying the same part as in the past, when in fact it really is a different product.
With ALFA Network products, the full model number will change when a new version is released, but the model number may appear similar. For example, an older ALFA product AWUS052NH was phased out, and a newer version called AWUS036ACH was released. This version had a different chip, and interacted with operating systems and applications differently.
If you are sourcing a specific product and have concerns about long term availability, or what to do in the event of a phaseout, please contact our experienced team for a consulation. We can help determine the best way forward.