Although the 802.11n working group informally compromised on a draft standard in January, the 40-day letter ballot period closed May 2 without a formal 75 percent approval of the Draft Standard 1.0. Forty-six percent of the voters approved the draft, according to members.
The backward-compatible 802.11n standard was designed to gradually replace todays Wi-Fi, with theoretical throughputs of about 300 Mbits/s, far faster than the 54 Mbits/s that the current 802.11g standard offers today.
That the 802.11n draft was not approved on its first vote is not surprising; according to members of the working group, technical drafts generally require several revisions before being approved by the 75 percent supermajority. An official April IEEE standards road map viewed by ExtremeTech predicts that the 802.11n letter ballot will be approved by September 2006, with the first sponsor ballots sent out in January. Final approval of the 802.11n spec is not expected until September 2007.
The problem, however, is that virtually all of the home networking vendors have jumped the gun, assuming that the standard will be ratified in a version close to its existing form.
So-called "pre-standard" products are usually designed around the draft specifications set down in the letter and sponsor ballots, however, and Belkin, D-Link, Linksys and Netgear have all announced products marketed as pre-802.11n-compliant, at least with the draft specification. None can be officially marketed as compatible, however, before the standard is finally approved.