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540Mbps (almost) everwhere, without royalty fees

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Wi-Fi chip designers Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Conexant, STMicro, Airgo and Bermai have formally told the IEEE what technology they think it should include in the 802.11n standard.

The group has come up with what it believes is a working technology foundation for the putative standard that also manages to fit within the world's numerous local spectrum regulations. They call the proposal 'WWiSE', for WorldWide Spectrum Efficiency.

To that end, the proposal mandates the use of Wi-Fi's 20MHz channel width, which also ensures backwards compatibility with existing Wi-Fi equipment. WWiSE itself uses the Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) many-antennae technique and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) to boost data throughput rates to a maximum of 540Mbps.

Such rates can be achieved with a 4 x 4 aerial array and a 40MHz channel width. In countries where spectrum regulations forbid such a channel width, kit based on WWiSE will fall back to a 2 x 2 array and the 20MHz channel width.

The proposal also includes optional advanced forward error-correction coding techniques to boost coverage and range.

The firms behind WWiSE to offer their intellectual property under "reasonable and non-discriminatory terms" - which they have to if the IEEE is to accept its incorporation into a standard - and to do so without charging a royalty fee.

That may not be enough to placate Canadian technology licensing company Wi-LAN, which claims ownership of key OFDM patents and thus a central portion of the 802.11a, 802.11g and WiMAX standards. Wi-LAN's intellectual property has similar implications for WWiSE.

Wi-LAN is aggressively pursuing wireless equipment makers for the royalty payments it believes it's owed. It's attempt to get Cisco to cough up came to nought, and the company has now initiated legal proceedings against the networking giant. Every other Wi-Fi player is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the case, which is likely to focus on the validity of Wi-LAN's patent claim. ®

Related stories

Airgo to double Wi-Fi bandwidth to 108Mbps
Wi-Fi Alliance cracks down on 'standards-plus' kit
IEEE groups fight for control of key standards
Cisco sued in Wi-Fi patent clash

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