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802.11n Wi-Fi standard ready for vote

200Mbps wireless is here at last

A completed draft of the 802.11n fast Wi-Fi standard could be ready to vote on this week – signalling greater acceptance and a flood of products later this year.

The IEEE fast Wi-Fi standard, which will operate at up to 200Mbps (megabits per second), is expected to take a significant step closer to reality this week, when the Task Group N in the IEEE's 802.11 LAN Working Group completes a draft which can be voted on, according to Glenn Fleishman of Wi-Fi Net News.

"The IEEE is a consensus-driven standards group, so its process grinds slowly," warns Fleishman. The process of creating a standard faster than the current 802.11g has been slower than usual. Two competing proposals reached stalemate in 2005, but a vendor consortium put together a proposal which became a first draft for the standards group to work on.

'Draft-N' products, based on Draft 1.0 of the specification, were swiftly delivered, but gave disappointing performance (see our reviews of Netgear DG834N, Linksys WRT300N, Belkin N1, D-Link Rangebooster N650 and Buffalo Airstation Nfiniti).

The Working Group could approve Draft 2.0 this week, which can then proceed to a letter ballot before the IEEE meeting in March – after which further changes are possible, but the eventual standard would get the IEEE rubber-stamp in 2008.

The Wi-Fi Alliance expects Draft 2.0 to be stable enough for the branding programme it announced last August, and vendors are expected to jump on the bandwagon, with laptop makers adding Draft-N cards, and silicon vendors arguing that Draft 2.0 will make 802.11n acceptable. Business WLAN makers are users are expected to wait till the formal standard in 2008, however.

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