Renewed 802.11n spec tensions

The plot thickens. Two weeks ago it appeared that the 802.11n war was over, with the two major warring coalitions agreeing to submit a joint proposal to the IEEE task group. WLAN chip heavyweights Intel, Broadcom, Atheros, and Marvell have formed an informal alliance to jointly submit to the IEEE an interoperable PHY and MAC layers. Conspicuously absent is Airgo Networks, the current leader in MIMO technology, a technology which will be at the core of 802.11n.

Critics of the new group accuse its members of trying to hijack the IEEE standardization process in order to slow down Airgo and blunt its advantage in MIMO. They even charge members of the group with collusion meriting the intervention of the Federal Trade Commission for antitrust violations. Others just worry that Intel and the other members would naturally pay more attention to developing PC chips, neglecting the handset market and its needs. Then there are those who are critical of the group for potentially delaying the the standards process.

Marvell's Paramesh Gopi tried to assuage critics' concerns by saying that the goal was to develop a baseline spec for laptops which would be extensible to other applications, including handsets. "No one is bypassing the IEEE," he insisted. Agere's Aon Mujtabi, chairman of the 802.11n physical-layer group, is unconcerned: "I've seen nothing that would cause alarm."

For more on the new 802.11n skirmish:
- see Patrick Mannion's Commdesigns report