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Blessing Draft N

11:40 AM -- I’ve had two issues with the “Draft N” movement since the first products appeared. The first is that, IMHO, one can’t really be compliant with a draft IEEE (or any other) standard. This doesn’t make sense, in light of the moving-target nature of the standards process, and especially with the lack of a certification/ conformance/ compliance spec and an associated test suite. The second is the relatively poor performance of these products which, while still dramatically better than .11g products, isn’t as good as earlier MIMO-based (and still proprietary) wireless LANs.

While the latter is a matter of implementation, the former is easy to correct -- just get the Wi-Fi Alliance or a similar body to create a Draft N spec, and that’s that. The vendors can then claim compliance with something, and have an interoperability test that will allow certification to same. Easy. This will, I predict, happen soon: With the delay in the .11n process, the Draft N crowd needs to solve this problem sooner rather than later. Because later these products will be obsolete, as is always the case. I still believe that the upgradeability of Draft N products to compliance with the standard is extremely doubtful, so we need to look at Draft N compliance as another interim and ultimately terminal step on the way to the real standard.

Besides, some form of certification is just good marketing, something that’s been lacking in the whole Draft N movement from the beginning.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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