Carrier WiFi

Where Art Thou, 802.11g?

Boy, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) is not happy about reports that significant progress and crucial votes have been taken in the 802.11g standards process. Not happy at all.

The proposed standard will allow data transfer speeds at up to 54 Mbit/s across 2.4 GHz, the same frequency as 802.11b. This would obviously make .gee very interoperable with .bee, but would keep traffic in the same congested spectrum (baby listeners, remote control devices, burglar alarms, and so on). The alternative 802.11a technology also offers up to 54 Mbit/s, but in the 5GHz band, a less congested frequency.

While 802.11a is already ratified, with products available, 802.11g has been bogged down in its early stages by disagreements over modulation methods. Now, it seems, some progress has been made at the IEEE. But not much. And anyone hoping to start producing 802.11g products by the beginning of next year should probably revisit their calendar.

While recent media reports have noted that the 802.11g standard process has passed several votes, Karen McCabe, senior marketing manager for IEEE Standards, says the impression given is "that the standard is near completion and almost ready for approval of the IEEE and publishing," and this is "misleading." She tells Unstrung that recent reports provide "the impression that the ballot or voting on the standard was by the broader IEEE for approval." Not so, she insists.

"IEEE P802.11g is a project under development, and a draft is being developed by the IEEE 802.11g working group for a standard that will eventually be put forth to the IEEE Standards Association Standards Board for final approval. The draft voted upon that [recent articles] mention is a draft under technical discussion within the working group only." Sounds like we're not quite at first base, then.

McCabe then kindly lays out the steps required before 802.11g will be put forward to the IEEE Standards Association Board for final approval and publishing:
  • Within the IEEE Local and Metropolitan Area Network Standards Committee (LMSC) -- the group sponsoring the 802.11g work -- draft standards are first written and voted upon (or balloted) by the working group itself. After each vote, the working group addresses each comment received in the balloting.
  • The work progresses from technical to editorial, or procedural, as the draft matures.
  • When the working group reaches enough consensus on the draft standard, a working group letter ballot is done to release it from the working group. It then has to be approved by the IEEE 802 LMSC Executive Committee. From there it goes to sponsor ballot.
  • After the sponsor letter ballot has passed and all "no" votes are answered, the draft standard is sent to the IEEE-SA Standards Board for approval.


So, where does this leave poor old 802.11g? "The draft standard still has to reach consensus within the working group, then be approved by the SEC, and then be put forth to the IEEE for official approval and publication," says McCabe. "It's a bit early in the process to be certain about the timing, although the standard appears to be on track for approval sometime next year."

Until some time next year, then…

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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