Draft 2.0 of 802.11n sent out for approval

The 802.11 working group (with just five abstentions) has agreed on a Draft 2.0 of the 802.11n WiFi specifications and sent the draft document to the entire membership of the IEEE for approval. If a majority of the members approve, Draft 2.0 will form the basis for the final 802.11n spec (technology analyst Glenn Fleishman notes: "The odds are about zero at this point for any changes that will involve anything but firmware upgrades as there will  be an entire entrenched industry for Draft 2.0-based products"). The standard's theoretical speed is about 600 Mbps, but in reality we should expect something more on the order of 200 Mbps, which is twice the speed of wired-based Ethernet and about four times the speed of 802.11g.

The speed is telling. In this year's CES, Ruckus Wireless demoed its draft 802.11n equipment which simultaneously streamed 1080p video to a couple of TV sets while also streaming standard-definition video to other devices. Just imagine transmitting HD content from one device to another without requiring coaxial cable or Cat 5e wire.

Several companies have rushed "draft N" or pre-802.11n gear to market, among them Dell, Linksys, Belkin and D-Link. Indeed, the wave of draft-N gear available has moved the otherwise staid Wi-Fi Alliance to take the unprecedented move of having a two-stage certifying process: By March, the Alliance will certify products as being compliant with Draft 2.0. When the spec is finalized later this year or in early 2008, the Alliance will certify products as fully 802.11n compliant.

The interest in the new standard has been intense, as evidenced by the fact that after Draft 1.0 was released in early 2006, the IEEE Task Group N was buried by an avalanche of more than 12,000 comments from the public. Group members said that was about six times more than what they expected.

The final ratification is expected around October 2008, but the spec will be finalized around January 2008.

For more on the state of Draft 2.0 802.11n:
- see Ephraim Scwartz's InfoWorld column
- see Eric Bangeman's Ars Technica report

ALSO: Owners of Apple computers with 802.11n-capable hardware would be required to pay a nominal fee of $1.99 for enabler software to let them use the faster connectivity. This comes after the company introduced the new AirPort Extreme wireless networking base station. This device supports the draft of the IEEE's forthcoming 802.11n fast WiFi standard. Report