Faster Wi-Fi Standard Nets Second Proposal

A proposal for the next-generation 802.11n standard, originally floated by Agere Systems, has won the support of heavyweights including Intel and Toshiba.

A proposal for the next-generation 802.11n standard, originally floated by Agere Systems, has now won support from heavyweights including Intel, Matsushita and Toshiba.

The group, called TGn Sync, will challenge the WWiSE consortium, a second collection of companies including Broadcom Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc. TGn Sync proponents said their coalitions standard could achieve data rates of 243M bps using a basic two-antenna design, compared with the 135M bps the WWiSE group has proposed.

The TGn Sync group comprises Agere Systems Inc., Atheros Communications Inc., Intel Corp., Marvell Semiconductor Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic), Nokia Corp., Nortel Networks Corp., Royal Philips Electronics N.V., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. and Toshiba Corp.

In some sense, the competing designs are the industrys equivalent of a tempest in a teapot. Next month in Berlin, IEEE members will debate the individual proposals, each technically submitted by a single individual.

The 250 or so members of the IEEE 802.11n working group then will vote on the proposals in several rounds, tossing out those that fail to receive 25 percent of the total. Each of the drafts will likely undergo several revisions or compromises before a draft standard is hammered out by the end of the year, with the final revisions due in 2005.

On the other hand, backing a winner from the beginning means that companies dont have to scrap months of behind-the-scenes development work, company representatives and analysts have said.

That work can move along in parallel with the standards process, resulting in products that actually come to market based on the draft standard and can be tweaked in firmware revisions when the final standard is released. This impact on the bottom line has prompted the politicization of what was designed as a pure meritocracy.

At press time, it was unclear whether the TGn Sync proposal fit in with the 802.11n specification proposed in July by Agere. Agere representatives in Allentown, Pa., were unable to be contacted, so it was not known whether the other companies joined a specification originally proposed by Agere, or whether the TGn Sync proposal represented a compromise or other revision.

Sheung Li, a product line manager at Atheros, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., said Ageres proposal and the TGn Sync specification are one and the same.

"The key thing is that we pulled together a dozen significant players," Li sad, noting that the group includes members of several industries. "We learned two lessons from 802.11e and 802.11g, which is that … folks dont want to get together and butt heads."

The same specification could be used in a phone, in enterprise products and in digital televisions, he said.

The TGn Sync proposal also will use MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas, aligned in an array to boost signal range and throughput. In a two-antenna configuration, data rates will be 243M bps, Li said, extensible up to 600M bps through the use of multiple antennas.


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