The industry group working to define parameters of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard has approved a draft proposal for the technological specification after settling differences between several different groups of companies attempting to influence the guideline.
The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)'s 802.11n task force ratified the latest draft at the group's meeting in Hawaii on Thursday, putting to rest controversy that erupted over the wireless communications standard after a consortium led by Intel Corp. submitted its own design for the standard in late 2005.
That group, the EWC (Enhanced Wireless Consortium), sought to make 802.11n more amenable to various types of electronics devices and wireless services.
802.11n is a specification for wireless LAN communications that promises faster network speeds and greater signal reliability, in addition to its goal of boosting the range of mobile networks.
As part of its draft certification, the IEEE Task Group reaffirmed that technologies built on the standard could achieve data processing speeds of 600M bps, significantly faster than today's 802.11g networks.
In August 2005, three teams working to create different versions of 802.11n agreed to blend their specifications into a single entry, dubbed the Joint Proposal.
However, Intel and a handful of other IT vendors including Atheros Communications Inc. and Broadcom Corp. launched the EWC in October, extending the debate over the standard's guidelines.
Last week the two camps agreed to merge their own specifications to submit back to the IEEE Task Group, including many of the recommendations made by the EWC.
Now that the draft has been proposed, the IEEE is submitting the guideline to face another series of critiques before its 802.11n Working Group. That team will most likely submit the specification for final confirmation, a process that typically takes about one year.
More importantly, now that the 802.11n standard has received approval from the members of the IEEE, manufacturers of electronics devices, PCs, networking gear, handsets and other related technologies can begin building products based on the draft specification.
On Friday, Broadcom announced new chip-set products that support the 802.11n proposal, introducing its Intensi-fi product line which also promises the ability for buyers to upgrade the technology once the final version of 802.11n is ratified.
Bill McFarland, chief technology officer at chip-set maker Atheros, Sunnyvale, Calif., said that his company has been developing products that support the current draft of 802.11n since last fall when the EWC submitted its design recommendations.
He predicted that the current version of the standard will not change much during the remaining approval process as many different manufacturers have already given it their stamp of approval.
"The basic underlying technologies have been in development for a while, so we should see rapid progress to market for real products," MacFarland said.
"We hope to see products using our chip sets on store shelves by later this year as we believe the current version of 802.11n is very stable, and will represent the final standard."
MacFarland said that a number of other companies involved in the IEEE's standards efforts are also already testing components supporting the current 802.11n spec.
The executive claims that without the input of the EWC, however, it is difficult to determine just how much progress might have been made with finalizing 802.11n.
While the three different groups brought their plans together to form the Joint Prosal, the executive said that specification consisted of only a few rudimentary guidelines before EWC became involved.
"There was never a complete specification, and things were progressing very slowly, so frustration over this led to the formation of EWC," he said.
"The thing that the EWC brought was a large number of companies working together that were willing to compromise on a complete, coherent proposal; if you go back before October and see what was there at that time, the joint team had almost nothing."
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