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Second consortium unveils 'broadband Wi-Fi' proposal

Battle lines being drawn in fight for 802.11n

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A rival coalition to the WWiSE group has submitted its own proposal to the IEEE's 802.11n taskforce in a bid to shape the future of broadband-speed wireless networking.

TGn Sync comprises the likes of Intel, Atheros, Cisco, Nokia, Nortel, Sony, Philips, Samsung and Toshiba, among others. Their joint proposal not only defines Wi-Fi technology capable of reaching 600Mbps and beyond, they claim, with a basic throughput of 243Mbps, but utilises adaptive radio technology to automatically adjust each radio to meet the regulatory structure of different territories.

Like the WWiSE group, TGn Sync's 802.11n proposal is based on the Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) many-antennae technique and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) to boost data throughput rates.

It too proposes support for 20MHz and 40MHz channel widths, for backward compatibility with today's Wi-Fi kit and room for high-bandwidth networks, respectively. It also includes a 10MHz channel width, and like WWiSE is based on two- and four-antenna arrays.

Both proposals use spatial multiplexing techniques to spread the data across the various antennae, essentially turning a serial data steam into multiple parallel streams to boost throughput. They also use Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), the technique that allows 802.11a and 802.11g to boost throughput beyond 802.11b's 11Mbps.

They differ in the refinements then applied to the signals. TGn Sync uses an Extended Modulation Coding Scheme (MCS) and Basic Beamforming to "increase the speed and reliability of data links under conditions that disrupt many MIMO networks", it claims. It also believes it has 802.11b compatibility sorted, something that doesn't appear to be the case with WWiSE, which is focusing on 802.11a and g support.

It also focuses on power management issues, the better to target smaller, power-sensitive devices, the group said.

Full technical details of TGn Sync's 802.11n proposal can be found here.

The crucial test will come on 13 September, when the IEEE 802.11 Task Group n (hence 'TGn') convenes in Berlin for a four-day meet to discuss the numerous proposals that have been submitted to it. In addition to TGn Sync and WWiSE, there over 60 other suggestions. TGn Sync has the benefit of the support of key WLAN players, and its

That said, both WWiSE and TGn Sync face Canadian technology licensing company Wi-LAN, which claims ownership of key OFDM patents and thus a central portion of the 802.11a, 802.11g, WiMAX standards - and potentially 802.11n too.

Wi-LAN is aggressively pursuing wireless equipment makers for the royalty payments it believes it's owed. It's attempt to get Cisco - a TGn Sync member - 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.

Meanwhile, the first draft of the 802.11n specification is scheduled to be completed in mid-2005 with its final ratification expected in late 2006 to early 2007. ®

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