Some industry analysts think the time has come to move on.
"If you look at especially public-access hotspots, the rationale for providing that backwards compatibility gets a little thin," Yankee Group analyst Ken Rehbehn said. "People generally upgrade their devices every two years."
"Older technologies really should be phased out over time," said Craig Mathias of the consulting company Farpoint Group, which recommends not buying Wi-Fi products that don't have at least 802.11n. One benefit to letting vendors leave out the earliest Wi-Fi protocols might be simpler and less expensive chips, he said. "I think in general, we would see some benefit from this," Mathias said.
However, there are so many types of devices vying for bandwidth in the 2.4GHz band that there's no guarantee Cisco's proposal would make life much better there, he said.
With a long standards process ahead, it's unlikely users would see any benefit from such a plan for at least three years, Mathias said. Wi-Fi is still usable in both of its bands, but taking some action might be a good idea, he said. "This is not a critical problem. It's a looming problem."