802.11n Clears Another Hurdle

The Wi-Fi world of wireless networking technologies has been dominated by lowercase letters: first we had 802.11a and b, which were both comparatively pokey a tremendous pain in the tuchus for users, but were enough to get entire industries worried about unwiring their notebooks, desktop systems, speakers, displays, and media players. Things got more bandwidth—and, sometimes, easier to configure—with 802.11g, and these days they rage is all about 802.11n wireless networking, which promises to offer real world speeds well in excess of 100Base-T Ethernet. However, the process of creating the 802.11n standard has been rocky, with competing proposals vying for approval and manufacturers jumping the gun with “pre-N” gear which wasn’t necessarily compatible with each other or existing 802.11 wireless networks. So far, 802.11n has been in the works for over four years, and we still aren’t “there” yet.

The 802.11n standard was originally projected to be a done deal during 2006—astute readers will note its now 2007 and there still isn’t a standard in place. However, the IEEE took a major step forward last week by approving the Draft 1.10 version of the standard (with minor changes), and in doing so renumbering it 2.0 and submitting it for letter ballot to the entire IEEE membership. Although it’s just a small step in a larger process, it is a critical one: the acceptance of Draft 1.10 (now 2.0) means that significant changes to 802.11n before the approval of a final standard are unlikely. So, a great deal of the so-called “pre-N” gear based on the 1.10 and earler 1.0 standards should be upgradable to the final version of 802.11n via firmware when 802.11n finally becomes official.

Of course, if you were planning on holding your breath…don’t. Current estimates have the final spec being hammered out by January 2008, but final approval might be as far off as the end of 2008. By then, heck, we might have abandoned wireless networking for high-speed telepathy.

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