Carrier WiFi

Dot-N Delayed Again

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 's vote on the second draft of the 802.11n wireless specification has been pushed back to January 2007, making it unlikely that high-speed WiFi products based on the standard will appear on the market before 2008.

The problem, according to Farpoint Group analyst and Unstrung contributor, Craig Mathias, who has monitored the slow progress of 802.11n, is that the IEEE has thousands of comments to slog through regarding the new standard. (See Reality Bites: 802.11n Edition.) "I think we all knew it was going to take longer than it should," says Mathias. "Although I still think we'll know what the draft will look like by the end of this year."

Unsurprisingly, politics have played a role in slowing down the process. "One gets the impression that the whole industry hates [WiFi chip startup] Airgo Networks Inc. , although I think that's basically jealously," says Mathias, adding that wireless products based on AirGo's chipset have so far come out top in his tests.(See Airgo Hits Million Mark.)

When it does eventually arrive, 802.11n is expected, at least, to double the maximum speeds offered by today's standard WiFi networks, with data transfer rates of 200 Mbit/s or more. The specification achieves this by using a multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antenna array. MIMO works by taking several "snapshots" of the same signal and combining them to make a more accurate overall picture than the single data stream usually passed between 802.11 clients and access points.

Home users have already started to buy into MIMO with draft pre-n products. Mathias suggests that if a users' key concern is speed and not compatibility then they could go ahead and buy now.

Some networking firms have already started to develop MIMO products for the enterprise and others are rumored to be following on the same path. (See Bluesocket's Performance Play, Foundry: Future Proof?, and Sources: Cisco Preps MIMO Map.) Some analysts, however, suggest that corporate users should wait until standardized products are ready. (See No Rush to High-Speed WiFi and No Draft-N Specification.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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