802.11n draft proposal approved

The standards body for the electronics industry, the IEEE, has voted to accept a working draft specification for the emerging 802.11n standard for wireless networking.

The unanimous vote accepting a Joint Proposal specification took place during the IEEE’s bi-monthly meeting in Kona, Hawaii. The proposals have also met with the approval of the Enhanced Wireless Consortium that was formed to develop 802.11n, which included Intel, Broadcom and Atheros.

802.11n extends the previous 802.11 wireless standards by implementing multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), which uses multiple transmitter and receiver antennae to allow for increased data throughput and a technique known as orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM). This allows data to be transmitted as multiple signals to increase total transmission speeds.

By using multiple antennae data throughput, it could reach a total of 600 Mbit/sec while avoiding the problems of interference that has dogged 802.11g and leading to longer operating distances. 802.11n should, in theory, be up to 40 times faster than 802.11b, and almost 10 times faster than 802.11a or 802.11g.

The specification has been subject to a great deal of wrangling as competing companies have fought to get their approach accepted as a standard. However, chip designer Airgo has been busily promoting its own ‘TrueMimo’ solution and, at the time of writing, has not officially agreed to the specification.

Nevertheless, a relieved Intel President Craig Barratt and CEO of Atheros Communications said in a statement, ‘The Enhanced Wireless Consortium (set out) to break the 802.11n stalemate and accelerate a draft that defines significantly higher wireless LAN performance. We have achieved this objective and are confident that our customers can now manufacture products with unprecedented performance based on our technologies that conform to this new draft’.

However, final ratification is not due until 2007 so until then any products claiming to be ‘802.11n compatible’ should also come with a health warning.

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