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Will 802.11n finally pass second vote?

Posted: 01 Sep 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:802.11n IEEE 802.11? TGnSync MitMot? Wi-Fi Alliance WLAN? Efficiency World-Wide Spectrum?

After members of the IEEE 802.11 working group (WG) voting on draft 1.0 of the standard failed to achieve the required 75 percent approval rate earlier this year, standard proposal groups TGnSync, World-Wide Spectrum Efficiency and MitMot (backed by Motorola Inc. and Mitsubishi Corp.) agreed to work on a compromise proposal in late July. Should the three groups come through with the proposal and have it approved during the scheduled IEEE 802.11 WG meeting this month, first-sponsor ballots would be sent out in January 2007, IEEE officials said.

"Somewhere between the November 2006 and the January 2007 time frame, the standard should be stable," Bruce Kraemer, chair of the IEEE 802.11n High Throughput Task Group, said in a statement. Final approval of the 802.11n spec is not expected until September 2007.

High hopes, expectations
Although not yet ratified, semiconductor manufacturers are already excited about the 802.11n market.

According to Michael Hurlston, VP and GM of Broadcom Corp.'s WLAN business unit, the market will shift within the next three to six months from 802.11g to 802.11n as awareness on the new standard builds. "We are in the middle of a really exciting transition. By Q1 of 2007, 802.11n will have a bigger market share than 802.11g," Hurlston predicted.

However, products developed and marketed before the approval of the IEEE 802.11n draft 1.0 spec are based on technology that may not be compatible with draft 1.0 and future specifications. As the ratification process continues, changes in the final standard can still be expected. Hence, products designed with pre-standards technology may face incompatibility issues later on.

Atheros Communications Inc. and Broadcom recently announced interoperability between their draft 802.11n solutions. According to test results from the two companies, Atheros' Xspan and Broadcom's Intensi-fi chipsets work together at throughput speeds greater than 100Mbps, using mandatory modes of the IEEE 802.11n specification (draft 1.0).

"The performance demonstrated between Atheros and Broadcom devices shows that the 802.11n draft, when adhered to and properly implemented, supports multivendor interoperability," said Atheros CTO Bill McFarland. "As the market moves toward these interoperable 802.11n draft chipsets, consumers will be able to purchase networking gear from numerous vendors."

Wi-Fi Alliance officials have reportedly taken a hands-off approach, declaring that as long as vendors do not market their products as IEEE 802.11n-certified, the Wi-Fi Alliance will not take action. "Labeling a product as compliant with or adhering to the 802.11n draft specification is discouraged, but within the bounds of something they can do," Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, reportedly said.

- Margarette Teodosio
Electronic Engineering Times-Asia

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