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IEEE preps 802.11n 320Mbps WLAN spec

Real data rates move closer to raw data rates

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Wireless LANs will reach speeds of 108Mbps, double 802.11a and 802.11g's 54Mbps rising to 320Mbps - and that's real data rates, which will more closely match the maximum raw transmission rates - if the IEEE has its way.

Earlier this year, the standards body formed a working group, the High Throughput Study Group, to explore the possible extension of the 802.11 specification to higher bandwidths. That group has now move to the next stage of implementation, and become the High Throughput Task Group. It is expected to receive official recognition in September as the 802.11n Working Group.

The Group has two goals: "To define standardised modifications to the 802.11 MAC and PHY layers that achieve a minimum increase in throughput of 100Mbps as measured at the MAC data SAP", and "to improve the 802.11 wireless LAN user experience by providing significantly higher throughput for current applications."

Essentially, that means increasing 802.11's raw data speed, and to increase the performance of the standard as perceived by the end user. Today's 802.11g products, for example, operate at 54Mbps, but the amount of network packet and traffic management, plus data encryption and decryption, and error correction that the standard incorporates reduce the throughput of user data by a wide margin.

The Group wants not only to increase the raw data speed, but to reduce the management overhead significantly.

Don't expect it any time soon, however. According to the Group's chair, Stuart Kerry, recently interviewed by Unstrung, the standard won't be in place before 2005 or even 2006.

But as the progress of the 802.11g standard has shown, manufacturers may will be keen to incorporate draft versions of the specification well ahead of its promotion to an official IEEE standard.

When that happens it will improve performance in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. "We're talking true throughput here," said Kerry. "We've had proposals running at 108Mbps and on up to 320Mbps." ®

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