802.11n not likely to be approved before 2008

They say about the horizon that the closer you appear to get to it, the farther away from you it gets. It's not quite the same with the 802.11n standard, but it's still similar. The reason: The sheer number of public comments on the standard. When an IEEE standard working group requests public comments about the first draft of a soon-to-be-ratified standard, it typically receives 2,000-2,500 such comments. After the 802.11n group issued the first draft in January 2006, it received more than 12,000 such comments. The IEEE was initially hoping to have the standard's second draft wrapped up by late fall, but last week said it would more likely be January 2007. If this is the case, then the standard will not likely be approved until sometime in 2008.

We note that about half the comments are about wording in the documentation accompanying the draft, but some 6,000 comments, if accepted, would result in changes which would make the pre-802.11n gear currently on the market incompatible with--and in some cases, un-upgradeable to--the eventually ratified standard. Among the thorny issues: Agreement on a method to combine wireless channels in order to increase throughput and conserve power as well as the compatibility of MIMO products from different vendors.

Farpoint's Craig Mathias told ZDNet that "It's better to make sure the standard is done right.... Eventually, 802.11n will be the only Wi-Fi flavor that matters. Once it's out no one will care about 802.11a, b or g. That's why it's important to get broad industry support."

For more on the state of 802.11n:
- see John Cox's NetworkWorld report
- see Eric Griffith's ITManagement report
- and Marguerite Reardon's ZDNet report

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