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Reality Bites: 802.11n Edition

6:00 -- I was chatting with a couple of colleagues who are active the 802.11n effort, and they mentioned two interesting facts. First, 12,000 comments were received on the current draft -- you know, the one that so many have claimed won’t change much before the standard is done. Twelve thousand. That’s not a typo. And it is a new record for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) .

OK, so, anyone still want to believe that the current crop of “draft n” products will be software upgradeable to the final standard?

Let’s be fair here, though. Assuming redundancies and near-redundancies, minor comments, and stuff not worth arguing over, the number (I’m told) is really more like 3,000. Wait a minute, 3,000? Gee, that’s still a pretty big number. And it thus looks as if my prediction of having a standard in the first quarter of 2007 is now dead wrong as well. Proving, once again, that we all make mistakes.

Which brings me to fact number two, which is actually only slightly related to the above. 6,000 of those comments came from one company!

Guess who? C’mon, guess. Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)? Nope. Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL)? Nope. Another wireless LAN chip company? Guess again. A wireless LAN systems company? You’re way off.

OK, I’m supposed to keep these things brief [ed. note: too late for that], so here it is: AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). No, really -- AT&T. How can this be? Why would AT&T, of all companies, care about wireless LANs? Simple: This is the New (again) AT&T. I think they’re well into planning how WiFi will play a role in their future wireless offerings, which include, after all, a big brand already -- Cingular Wireless . AT&T has known for a long time that WLANs are cost-effective in metro-scale deployments, and they want to make sure that the standard that will carry the industry for at least five years after it’s issued will contain what they need for their own business purposes. A strange and interesting twist regardless, with many more to come, I’m sure.

Who needs TV when we’ve got all this?

— 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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