IEEE revises 802.11n but final approval delayed to mid-2008

The IEEE has adopted a new draft specification of 802.11n, the next-generation wireless standard, but the anticipated date for final approval has been moved from January to July 2008 with the standard due to be published the following October.

IEEE revises 802.11n but final approval delayed to mid-2008

The new specification has been temporarily labelled as version 1.1, but will be rebranded as 2.0 when submitted to the fill 802.11 working group at the end of the month. A further revision is due for the end of May and will then be submitted for the final approval and acceptance as a standard.

802.11 has been beset with delays since it was first mooted as a successor to the b/g versions of the standard back in 2003. Firstly rival groups had to agree on a common approach; then the working group had to try to accommodate numerous requests – such as support for consumer electronics devices and voice over IP (VoIP) – and address concerns including power consumption.

Several wireless device manufacturers have pre-emptively implemented the draft specification, including Dell, Linksys, Belkin, D-Link and Netgear. There’s also Apple, which uses it in the recently announced Apple TV and AirPort Extreme devices as well as several of its Intel Macs. It is anticipated that such devices will require nothing more than a firmware update in order to meet the final specification; no update is required for compatibility with this latest revised draft.

By employing MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) technology that uses two antennae to allow for increased data throughput, 802.11n has a greater range than 802.11g – around 50m as opposed to 30m and a higher speed – between 100Mbps and 200Mbps compared to 54Mbps). Estimates of the real world performance vary, suggesting that no-one is quite sure how close the technology will come to a theoretical top speed of 600Mbps. The specification is compatible with existing 802.11 a/b/g devices and networks.

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced last August that it would begin certifying 802.11n devices in the belief that the final standard would not markedly differ from the draft specification.

‘While we are committed to supporting a full 802.11n standard when it is available, pre-standard products are reaching a level of maturity and there is enough market uptake that a certification program makes sense for the industry,’ Wi-Fi Alliance managing director Frank Hanzlik said at the time.

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