802.11n Standard Stalls Again

By Eric Griffith

May 20, 2005

The groups struggling to define the new, faster Wi-Fi will start anew after a vote this week showed no 'super majority' winner.

At the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 Working Group Meeting this week in Australia, the vote was made in Task Group N again to see which group—the World Wide Spectrum Efficiency (WWiSE) consortium or TGn Sync—would lead the way to a new high-speed Wi-Fi technology standard called 802.11n, which is designed to deliver 100Mbps throughput on wireless networks.

Neither group won the votes needed to become the basis for a standard, however —for the second time.

TGn Sync, which is backed by companies like Atheros, Agere, Intel and Qualcomm, had a majority at the previous vote in March (56 percent), but only got 49 percent this time. A "super majority" of 75 percent or higher is required by the rules of the IEEE standards process. Without it, the groups involved have to start over again as if they were brand new, lobbying Working Group voting members for support.

According to ComputerWorld, this vote came after TGn Sync member tried to adjourn the meeting without taking the vote.

Luckily, there are just the two groups left now to try and compromise for a solution. Last year, there were several proposals, both partial and complete -- the latter being those that define all the requirements, including changes to the Media Access Control (MAC) and Physical (PHY) layers of 802.11. Almost all were eventually subsumed into WWiSE or TGn Sync. It took a little longer, but holdouts Motorola and Qualcomm pulled their complete proposals to join the larger groups as well.

Both the TGn Sync proposal and the WWiSE proposal hinge on the use of multiple in, multiple out (MIMO) technology to get the high throughput and extended range desired of 802.11n, but they differ on the specifics of how to implement it. TGn Sync wants mandatory channel widths of 40MHz with a minimum of two antennas; WWiSE wants 20MHz channels to be mandatory but with more antennas, which it feels is a more regulation-friendly way of working in areas like Europe and Japan where the wider channels are not currently permitted.

WWiSE is backed by names like Texas Instruments, Motorola and Airgo Networks, which developed much of the MIMO technology. Airgo sells TRUE MIMO chips in use in products today from companies like Belkin and Linksys, in what some call "Pre-N" products.

WWiSE member Broadcom issued a statement this morning saying that "this week's confirmation vote creates a situation where a collaborative proposal is seemingly in everyone's best interest." That outlook doesn't seem to be doing much to clear the voting stalemate.

The next meeting of the 802.11 Working Group and the 11n Task Group will be in July in San Francisco.

Originally published on .

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