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10/5/2005
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Further Delays Predicted In 802.11n Standards Fight

Now that some key players have broken away from the 'mainstream' process, anything could happen.

Depending on who you listen to, the wireless industry battle around development of a 802.11n standard is either close to being resolved or destined to drag on until at least mid-2007.

Until recently, the outlook for 802.11n standardization, which promises speeds of up to 100mbits per second, was looking brighter than it had in months. After much haggling over minute details, TGn Sync and WwiSE – the two industry groups working to develop the 802.11n standard – had agreed to work together to come up with a single proposal in time for the IEEE's November session.

But according to Sam Lucero, a senior analyst with ABI Research, Oyster Bay, N.Y., last month's revelation that WLAN chipmakers Intel, Atheros, Broadcom and Marvell were moving outside of the IEEE process to work on some of the technical aspects of 802.11n is a major complication. "Having these four companies working on details on NDA outside the IEEE process is going to delay the standard a couple of quarters," said Lucero.

Jack Davis, President and CEO of wireless integrator Sideband Systems, Beverly, Mass., said that a delay in ratification of the 802.11n standard would affect his business, but not in a positive or negative sense. "As an integrator for wireless systems, we have to be aware of these issues because part of our role is to advise our clients. When it comes to adopting new technologies, we're a recommender," Davis said.

The chipmakers maintain that 802.11n standardization is still on track for sometime in mid-2006. Atheros said it remains committed to working with the IEEE and TGn Synch and will continue to do so in order to finalize the 802.11n standard. And last week at the World Broadband Forum, Michael Hurlston, vice president of Broadcom's wireless and home networking unit, told EE Times that the standard would be finalized by mid-2006.

Hurlston added that once this happens, it wouldn't take long for interoperable 802.11n products to reach the market. According to Scott McClure, Broadband Wireless Business Unit Manager at wireless distributor Tessco, interoperability is the main selling feature of 802.11 technology. "You buy a handheld expecting that it's going to work on the network," he said. "If devices aren't interoperable, it hurts the whole selling proposition for standards-based wireless."

The bottom line with 802.11n is whether it can do the job, according to Davis. "From a standards standpoint, most users aren't interested in whether you have 'a better slice of bread', just that the technology does a more cost effective job," he said. "I think 11n would, in fact, be cost effective -- if you need that much bandwidth."

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