IEEE 802.11n heads for a finish in September

The final vote on the hotly debated wireless standard looks likely to come Sept. 11

The IEEE 802.11n standard is likely to be approved in September, making the high-speed wireless LAN technology official after about seven years of wrangling and refinement.

The 802.11 working group, which has developed all the major wireless LAN standards, voted on Friday to send Draft 2.0 of the 11n standard on to the upper levels of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for final review and publication, according to a blog entry by Matthew Gast, chief strategist at Trapeze Networks and a member of the task group. There was only one dissenting vote, Gast wrote.

Final approval will be up to the IEEE Standards Board Review Committee, which examines all standards that come out of the organization, Gast wrote. Its next meeting will take place Sept. 11. IEEE standards typically don't undergo major changes or debate in the final stages of approval.

The 11n standard defines a way to use multiple antennas to achieve throughput of more than 100Mb per second (Mbps), up to a maximum of 600Mbps. A high throughput study group within the IEEE began exploring faster technology in 2002 and later became Task Group 11n. But opposing camps that had already begun shipping their own high-speed products got embroiled in fierce disagreements about the proposed standard, and in 2006, the first draft failed to get the 75 percent vote in the task group that was required to move on.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, which certifies 802.11 products for standards compliance and interoperability, decided in 2006 it couldn't wait out the lengthy 11n process and would start certifying products based on a draft version. After Draft 2 got a 75 percent vote in the 11n task group in 2007, the Alliance started certifying products under that draft. It cited the flood of pre-standard products already coming from several vendors and the danger of consumer confusion. More than 600 products have been approved as "draft 11n" since then.

Coincidentally, the first meeting of the High Throughput Study Group that spawned 11n took place on Sept. 11, 2002, Gast noted. "If approved, the 802.11n effort will have taken exactly seven years, at least by one measure," Gast wrote.

However, he noted that the IEEE isn't sitting on its laurels. There are already two groups looking at possible standards for 1Gbps wireless LANs, called 802.11ac and 802.11ad. The 802.11ad group is studying 60GHz technology, which the WiGig Alliance is also pushing for fast wireless connections.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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