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IEEE rejects Nokia-backed next-gen Wi-Fi proposal

TGn Sync in, WWiSE out

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A week after Nokia defected to the WWiSE 802.11n technology proposal group, and a day after a trio of telcos gave the organisation the thumbs up, an alternative proposal has won the support of the IEEE Task Group charged with investigating the next generation of Wi-Fi.

The outcome of the ballot has not yet been formally made public, but sources close to Atheros, the Wi-Fi chip maker backing WWiSE-rival TGn Sync, claim their proposal won, 181 votes to 140, giving it 56.4 per cent of the total votes cast.

That, the sources say, means the WWiSE proposal has been eliminated in favour of TGn Sync. We were under the impression the winner needed to gain at least 75 per cent of the vote to force a rival proposal to be formally rejected. Presumably that will happen in May when the 802.11n Task Group votes again on the TGn Sync - if the standard wins the support of 75 per cent or more of the vote, it will be selected as the basis for the draft 802.11n standard.

802.11n is the name the IEEE has given to the next generation of the Wi-Fi wireless networking standard. Currently under development, the technology is intended to yield at least 100Mbps real data throughput, with a raw throughput of up to 200Mbps. By contrast, 802.11g has a raw throughput of 54Mbps, but once noise, interference and the bandwidth required to maintain error-free data transmissions are taken into account, the actual speed is much slower than that. The same is true of 802.11b.

WWiSE - short for 'Worldwide Spectrum Efficiency' - was launched as a proposal for the 802.11n standard last August by Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Conexant, STMicro, Airgo and Bermai. Since then it has won the backing of Motorola, which last month agreed to merge its own 802.11n proposal into the WWiSE offering.

A week after WWiSE was launched, Intel, Atheros, Agere, Infineon, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, Nortel, Mitsubishi, Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sanyo, Toshiba and others offered up an alternative proposal, dubbed TGn Sync.

Both proposals are based on the Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) many-antennae technique and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) to combine the bandwidths offered by a number of radio channels into a single fat data pipe. Both call for two- and four-antenna arrays.

The two proposals support 20MHz and 40MHz channel widths to ensure backward compatibility with today's Wi-Fi kit. However, they apply different signal modulations, and only TGn Sync has offered compatibility with 802.11b as well as 802.11a/g.

Bizarrely, Nokia jumped ship earlier this month, switching its allegiance from TGn Sync to WWiSE. Presumably, it's feeling a little silly now. Earlier this week, WWiSE announced that telcos France Telecom, NTT and ITRI had also agreed to back its proposal.

With a second ballot due in two months' time, it may be too soon to write off WWiSE as quickly as TGn Sync members would like us to do. Their proposal has to win over a significant proportion of those folk who sided with WWiSE. In the hope of ensuring a single specification and avoiding the deadlock that has hampered the definition of an ultrawideband (UWB) standard, TGn Sync will now be lobbying hard to persuade WWiSE backers to accept what it sees as the inevitable. ®

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