The arrival of new standards is typically preceded by assertions, at times extravagant assertions, about the promise and potential they hold. 802.11n is no exception. Some companies do not wait for the standard to be finalizes before offering pre-standard gear--and also rushing to make all kinds of proclamations about the capabilities and benefits of the pre-standard gear and its future compatibility with and upgradability to standard-certified gear, once the standard is finalized. Pre-802.11n gear is no exception, either.
ABI Research's Sam Lucero tells TechNewsWorld that there is less here than meets the eye. "While [pre-802.11n devices] connect at high speeds at close range, these devices' performance tends to fall off rapidly with increasing distance... Interoperability is neither as robust nor as seamless as it should be."
ABI will publish a report, based on testing several pre-802.11n, MIMO-based devices, and on interviews with several chip makers. You may recall that for a year or so, from mid-2004 to mid-2005, the discussions over the final shape of 802.11n were locked in an impasse between the competing proposals of two coalitions--TGn Sync and WWiSE. In late summer 2005, a third coalition, the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) was formed by the Gang of Four--Atheros, Broadcom, Intel and Cisco--with the aim of offering specifications for the standard which, at the same time, make it easier to reach an agreed-upon draft and also slow down the ascent of MIMO pioneer Airgo toward 802.11n market domination. The results, so far, have fallen short of expectations. Lucero points out that "the whole idea behind the EWC was that they were going to provide a clear path to interoperability... Vendors rushed into the market, and at least with this initial run of chip sets, good interoperability does not seem to have been achieved."
PLUS: See Stephen Lawson's October 2005 Infoworld article for more on the formation of the EWC.