Competing IEEE Groups to Join Forces on 802.11n Standard

Dozens of companies involved in three proposals for a standard for a faster flavor of Wi-Fi will meet to hammer out a compromise.

The groups competing to propose a standard for a faster flavor of Wi-Fi have agreed to join forces, IEEE officials have confirmed.

For months, the two leading standard proposals—TGnSync and WWiSE (World-Wide Spectrum Efficiency)—have been at a stalemate, neither being able to garner 75 percent of the votes, which is needed to move forward in the ratification process.

A third, Motorola Inc. and Mitsubishi Corp.s MitMot proposal, previously out of the running, was reinstated after the stalemated vote in May, according to protocol, officials said.

But at a meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in late July, the three groups agreed to work on a compromise proposal instead.

This month, the 40 or so companies involved in the three proposals will meet in Tokyo to hammer out the compromise specification.

IEEE officials said a partial merged proposal should be posted for review during a September 2005 meeting and a complete proposal will be ready for group review at meeting in November. (If the groups fail to complete the proposal by then, the IEEE will go back to the drawing board and re-instate the voting process.)

Since 802.11n was first proposed in the fall of 2003, the industry has been waiting for the standard, which is designed to increase Wi-Fi throughput rates to at least 100M bps using multiple antennas and multiple data streams in a single channel.

If the three groups come through with the proposal on time, 802.11n should be officially ratified and published by January 2007, IEEE officials said, although manufacturers are likely to begin building products before that.

"Somewhere between the November 2006 and the January time frame, [the standard] should be stable," said Bruce Kraemer, chairman of the 802.11n task group.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about timing expectations for a fully unified 802.11n Wi-Fi standard.

In the meantime, several companies are marketing proprietary products based on MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technologies.

Airgo Networks Inc.s line of chip sets has been sold to Belkin, Buffalo and Ciscos Linksys division.

Rolf De Vegt, senior director of business development for Airgo, said the chip sets should be considered "MIMO enabling technologies" rather than "pre-n."

The term "pre-n" has hit the market already, but analysts warn against any product that claims to be pre-n.

"Pre-n is a bad, bad term, because it implies that there is some connection with n for upgrades," said Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at Gartner Inc. in San Jose, Calif. "There isnt, and we will say anything negative we can about any vendor who puts this on their box. The term pre only makes sense when you know what the here and now is. Prehistoric makes sense only when you have history, not before its created."

IEEE officials made it clear that anyone buying a pre-standard product at this point should understand that it likely will not be upgradeable to a ratified standard.

"We havent even got a draft yet," said Stuart Kerry, chair of the 802.11 working group at the IEEE.

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