Draft standard chosen for faster Wi-Fi

IEEE 802.11n will tap multiple antennas in pursuit of 100Mbps

The task group working on a new, faster standard for Wi-Fi, called IEEE 802.11n, has settled on a draft proposal that will now be refined into a final specification.

This development ends a long struggle to choose between two main draft proposals for the standard. Both would have used multiple antennas to achieve the real-world throughput of at least 100Mbps that's required in 802.11n. A special group was formed in the middle of last year to come up with a joint proposal, and it submitted the plan that was approved Thursday. The vote took place Thursday morning in Kona, Hawaii, at a general meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.11 Working Group.

There is still work to do on the draft before it can be ratified as a final standard, according to Bill McFarland, chief technology officer of Atheros Communications Inc. and a voting member of the task group. Once it has been formatted according to IEEE rules, it will go out to a group of engineers across the 802.11 Working Group, which is responsible for all wireless LAN standards. Those engineers will point out problems if they see them, and there will be a series of modifications and votes until the draft gets more than 75 percent approval among those voters, McFarland said.

Finally, an even broader group of IEEE members will vote on final ratification. McFarland believes that is likely to happen near the end of this year or in early 2007. However, products built according to the draft specification should reach customers around the middle of this year, according to McFarland.

On Thursday, after news of the confirmation vote, Broadcom Corp. announced the availability of a family of chipsets that it claimed are the first products designed to comply with the draft. The chipsets, called Intensi-fi, include ones that could be used in routers, notebook PCs and add-in PC Cards, according to the company. They are available to manufacturers now in sample quantities. Broadcom did not provide pricing.

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