Standards Meeting Yields No New Letters

By Eric Griffith

January 22, 2004

The bi-monthly meeting of the group that sets 802.11 standards didn't deliver any surprises but made steady progress on new specifications.

The official documentation and minutes for last week's IEEE 802.11 Working Group (WG) interim meeting, held in Vancouver, British Columbia, aren't available yet, but we got the scoop on what went on at the group's 83 sessions from WG publicity chair Brian Mathews.

While some recent reports have indicated that a new task group (TG) for mesh was officially formed, Mathews says that's not the case. Mesh is still in a study group (SG) phase as per the IEEE rules.

"We go through stages and establish a study group to look at ... setting up a task group. There has to be market demand, it has to be technically feasible; we form study groups to make sure there's consensus for such a thing. Then the study group puts together the paperwork circulated at the executive committee level," he says.

The mesh study group is indeed off the ground but won't become a TG until the executive committee votes at the next plenary meeting of the 802.11 WG, which is scheduled for March in Orlando, Fla.

Mathews confirmed that wireless distribution system (WDS), which was mentioned but not defined in early 802.11b specifications, will be the emphasis of the mesh standard.

Voice over wireless LAN (VoWLAN) won't be getting its own standard just yet. The Fast Roaming study group already in place (which was proposed by Symbol Technologies last year) will tackle issues relating to the "time it takes for a unit to realize it has lost contact [ with an access point], rescan, and decide to connect up up with another access point." Mathews says Fast Roaming has WG approval to seek TG formation.

802.11n, the promised high-speed standard that would deliver throughput over 100Mbps or more, made progress. The TGn is still "going through the establishment of their comparison criteria," according to Mathews. "That's a big job. You need this list of items to analyze and simulate so your proposal can be compared with others. People bring in proposals with vastly different aspects."

802.11e (for Quality of Service for voice, audio, and video traffic) and 802.11i (for advanced security) also made expected progress and are still on track for approval sometime this year.

The IEEE's 802.11 Elected Officer's page also reveals that chairs have been selected for study groups on "Wireless Access Vehicular Environment" to look into roadside-to-vehicle communications using 802.11a and "Wireless Performance Prediction" for creating a common set of offline tests to measure wireless performance of 802.11 systems without defining any new protocols.

Contrary to earlier reports, Mathews says the next standard won't use the letter "o" as a suffix, probably so as not to be confused with the numeral zero ("0"). The WG skipped using the letter "l" for the same reason, since it looked like the numeral one ("1"). Instead, the next two TGs will use the letters "p" and "q."

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