Wireless LAN Specs Leapfrog Ahead

Competing 802.11n WLAN specifications promise enormous advances in bandwidth.

Two camps, each backed by major technology companies, are planning to submit competing 802.11n WLAN standards proposals next month at the IEEE meeting.

The specs, TGn Sync (Task Group * Sync) and WWiSE (worldwide spectrum efficiency), promise enormous leaps in bandwidth—beyond 500M bps with extensions—which is the key draw for 802.11n. "From a users perspective, I do need more bandwidth because people are demanding that the services they have on the wired network are available on wireless," said Brad Noblet, director of technical services at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H.

TGn Sync boasts throughput rates of up to 243M bps with standard dual-antenna designs, and up to 600M bps with extensions, according to consortium members. It also uses adaptive radio technology, allowing it to adapt to differing numbers of data streams, as well as varying amounts of spectrum.

TGn Sync also includes several features that let products operate in low-power modes when not sending or receiving large amounts of data, which is helpful for small devices with small batteries.

The consortium includes handset companies such as Nokia Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and chip companies such as Intel Corp.

TGn Sync members said having several types of companies in one consortium from the get-go will speed the standards process if the IEEE chooses their proposal. "When you start in opposite camps and try to retrofit, thats what causes delays," said Sheung Li, product line manager at Atheros Communications Inc., in Sunnyvale, Calif. "Here, we have them all working together." WWiSE boasts slightly slower throughput rates of 135M bps to 540M bps. However, WWiSE is more focused on interoperability with existing WLAN standards than its competitor.

The WWiSE consortium comprises several silicon companies, including Texas Instruments Inc., Broadcom Corp., Bermai Inc., Conexant Systems Inc., Airgo Networks Inc. and STMicroelectronics.

802.11n will use some version of MIMO (multiple-input/multiple-output) smart-antenna technology, with the goal of wireless throughput speeds rivaling Fast Ethernet. The first draft isnt due until the middle of next year; official ratification isnt expected for well over a year.


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