The Intel-and Firetide-led SEE Mesh, which had put forward a proposal to compete with Nortels Wi-Mesh Alliance, resolved their differences and moved forward with a joint proposal that should be voted in as the draft standard for 802.11s, the IEEE mesh networking standard.
A final standard might not be due until early 2008, although industry executives said that estimate might be conservative, and "pre-standard" products might also be released in the interim.
The new mesh standard is expected not only to be used by citywide Wi-Fi systems such as those being deployed in San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and small towns, but also in the home, in routers, gateways and even consumer electronic equipment.
Companies have begun positioning themselves for the upgrade. Motorola said April 19 that it plans to upgrade its MeshConnex metropolitan-area mesh networking system with 802.11s-compliant software once the draft standard is complete.
Basic Wi-Fi is predicated upon the IEEE 802.11 standard, which includes flavors like 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and soon the faster 802.11n specification.
Various add-ons to the spec bring in other features, such as 802.11e, which adds a layer of security.
Devices will have to support 802.11s to enable the mesh features.
However, the 802.11s standard will enter a mesh market that has already developed without it.
That will minimize its impact as an enabling technology, but will nevertheless serve as the common fabric that will help enable roaming from one network to the other, executives said.
The 802.11s technology will also be forced to compete with 3G cellular devices, which allow data downloads on the go.