Industry Coalition Floats Proposal for 802.11n

The WWiSE consortium, including companies such as Airgo Networks, Broadcom and Conexant, is the second group to submit a proposal for the standard poised to replace Wi-Fi.

A second group is floating its technical proposal to replace Wi-Fi, in advance of a meeting next month to begin resolving the issue.

The so-called WWiSE consortium–comprising Airgo Networks, Bermai, Broadcom, Conexant, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments–held a conference call Thursday morning to introduce its new proposal for the 802.11n standard. "WWiSE" stands for "World Wide Spectrum Efficiency," a characteristic of the new proposed standard, the companies said.

By 2006 or 2007, the then-completed 802.11n standard will replace the current mix of Wi-Fi technologies, or so the industry hopes.

The 802.11n technology is designed to be much faster than todays technology; the base requirements set down by the IEEE 802.11n working group call for the throughput to exceed 100M bps.

/zimages/6/28571.gifIs 802.11n leapfrogging ultrawideband? Click here to read more.

The IEEE will meet in Berlin next month to begin evaluating more than 60 working proposals for the technical underpinnings of 802.11n. The first draft of the proposed standard is expected by mid-2005, WWiSE members said, leaving the assembled companies little time to settle on a technical standard all of them can live with.

But what was originally a strict meritocracy has become more political over time. Members vote for each standard, whittling away proposals they think have less merit. They float compromises, and the final standard is usually a hybrid of several proposals.

Politics can bog down the process, however. Members of the MBOA (MultiBand OFDM Alliance) have accused Freescale Semiconductor and Motorola of holding up the IEEE voting process to craft an ultrawideband standard, prompting the MBOA members to sidestep the IEEE process for now. Instead, theyre creating a standard by aligning with other industry and technical working groups.

/zimages/6/28571.gifFreescale earlier this month received certification from the Federal Communications Commission for its ultrawideband chip set. Click here to read more.

WWiSE members say theyve begun publicizing their proposal so they can "release key messages" about the pre-802.11n standard to other members. "My suspicion is that there will be several twists and turns as this plays out," said Jim Zyren, executive director of marketing at Conexant Systems Wireless and Residential Gateway Access Products business in Red Bank, N.J.

Agere Systems in July disclosed its own 802.11n proposal, the only other standard proposed so far. Both proposals say theyll maintain backward compatibility with current Wi-Fi technology.

Both proposals use a concept called MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) to increase throughput. Each proposal uses a mandatory minimum configuration of two transmit antennas and two receive antennas to improve bandwidth by broadcasting the information in parallel using a 20MHz channel.

In addition, optional extensions to both proposals call up to a total of four receive and transmit antennas using a 40MHz channel, increasing the total available bandwidth to more than 500Mbps, said Sean Coffey, manager of the WLAN Advanced Technology Group at Texas Instruments, based in Dallas.

Conexants Zyren said the consortiums proposed methodology also will protect unlicensed spectrum.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here for a column on making room for wireless broadband.

One of the members of the WWiSE group, Airgo Networks, already has begun to ship chips that support MIMO to its customers, who have announced plans to ship products based on the technology.

The WWiSE group said its members will hold onto their own IP (intellectual property), licensing it to other members under reasonable terms. The IEEE requires that IP incorporated into a standard be licensed to other IEEE member companies involved in the spec under RAND (reasonable and nondiscriminatory) terms, which can involve royalties.

The WWiSE companies will not pool their patents, meaning that an 802.11n member will have to take licenses from several companies. On the other hand, Zyren said, a RAND-Z (zero royalty) option also will be offered, allowing members to avoid paying royalties in exchange for other, undisclosed considerations.

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