January 11, 2006 10:00 AM PST

New Wi-Fi standard back on track

After months of squabbling, the new, faster Wi-Fi standard that got derailed late in 2005 could finally be back on track, say people involved in the standards process.

A revised draft of the specification known as 802.11n is expected to be introduced at the task group's meeting next week in Hawaii, and it's expected to get the required 75 percent approval vote to make it an official standards draft.

"Things are looking very promising," said Mike Pellon, vice president of standards at Motorola. "It looks like the fragmentation has passed. For the last couple of months, all the different parties involved have been pulling together."

If the rest of the 802.11n process continues to go as planned, products supporting the faster Wi-Fi technology could show up on the market in the next 12 to 18 months, he said.

The 802.11n working group was formed within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) more than a year ago to establish a standard for the next generation of Wi-Fi technology called MIMO (multiple input/multiple output), which will quadruple data rates of wireless LANs.

This past spring, the standards became mired in squabbling between rival groups. One was led by Intel; the other by Airgo Networks, a small company with the only MIMO-based chips now shipping. The two groups eventually came to a deadlock after an Intel-backed proposal failed to move forward in the process. As a result, leaders in the IEEE instructed the two groups to form a joint proposal team to merge specifications from the two main proposals into a single draft of the standard.

But in October, Intel and 26 other companies threw a monkey wrench into the IEEE process when they announced the formation of a splinter group called the Enhanced Wireless Consortium, or EWC. Wi-Fi chipmakers Broadcom, Marvell Technology Group and Atheros Communications joined Intel in leading this new consortium. The group had planned to submit a proposal to the IEEE at its November meeting, when the joint proposal group was also expected to finalize its draft of the standard.

Striving for technical harmony
At the time the EWC was announced, several companies, including Airgo, voiced their concern that this new group would distract the industry and delay the standards work.

"We didn't want to see the process hijacked," said Greg Raleigh, CEO of Airgo. "All of the proposals out there are based on Airgo's technology, and we want to see a standard developed from an open process."

With full support from the major chip manufacturers, it seemed as though the EWC could move ahead on its own with or without an official IEEE standard. Instead of waiting for the standard to be ratified, which isn't expected until the beginning of 2007, device makers in the Intel group could have started building prestandard MIMO products with the assurance that

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I love the process of developing a standard in any industry, it's always so exciting. Heh, well I hope they move their ***** because 2006 looks to be about moving video content home or otherwise, so they better get the act togeter because this has been taking waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to long.
Posted by chuchucuhi (233 comments )
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Time to Raise Taxes
Perfect example of why governments shouldn't build and own citywide WiFi... it would be time for a special tax assessment to upgrade the infrastructure. Awwww... your city still runs 802.11b. Better pony up more tax dollars!
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
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Of course
Because we *have* to raise taxes anytime anything has to be upgraded in the government, right? Say, I can't remember that they raised taxes when the upgraded the water tower. Hmmmm..

Such sound logic. You should be a lawyer.
Posted by Slylencer (11 comments )
Link Flag
Even Worse
If taxes, or fees as Schwarzenegger calls them, were raised to upgrade city WiFI equipment then you can be sure that some or all of the increase would end up going to other, completely unrelated and useless programs. Think your state's gas tax money all goes to fix roads? Nope? It goes for dubious social programs like Esperanto As A Second Language.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
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802.11g Is Long in the Tooth
when i first upgrade my home wifi to g i experienced an immediate upgrade in broadband on the wireless side from 700-800-kbps to well over 2-mbps. of course i was running one of the proprietary spin-offs that uses all the channels (in my case, d-link). well, couple months ago a nearby neighbor installed a wifi network (there were three others before, but all were weak, he's very, very strong) and my data rate dropped back to 700-800-kbps, even after i switched from channel 6 (mandated in the proprietary mode) to channel 11. all my nearby neighbors deny it's them (i'm trying to find him to tell him to turn off his proprietary jammer!), so i hope that mimo comes quickly and takes care of things!

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
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