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802.11n Standard Slowly Approaches

The long wait for an officially ratified, faster wireless LAN standard may be over in a matter of months, as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) is now expecting to approve the 802.11n standard in September.

The industry body has accepted draft 2.0 of the 802.11n specification after receiving more than 75 percent approval in the latest letter ballot. This should lead to final approval in September if all goes to plan.

Work on the "n" standard started in April 2003. The technology uses multi-antenna arrays -- otherwise known as MIMO -- to crank the data rates past 500 Mbit/s at peak rates.

The Wi-Fi Alliance will use the draft for certifying that pre-802.11n infrastructure and devices play nice together and with others. The 802.11n certification mark will be available in June. The alliance will update its testing plan when the final ratified standard is available and will offer a second phase of certification.

More than ever before, vendors have jumped the gun with pre-standard products. Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. is expecting the WLAN market to grow by 25 percent in 2007, driven in part by 802.11n. (See 802.11n Takes a Step Forward .)

Vendors generally say any changes to pre-n products can be handled with a software upgrade. For instance, a Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) spokeperson says:

"With no major architectural changes made from Draft 1.0, all of Broadcom's 802.11n silicon shipped since January 2006 -- well over 3 million units -- remain interoperable with Draft 2.0."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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