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Next-gen Wi-Fi groups vote for single spec

Final 802.11n proposal could be sent to IEEE next week

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The battle over the future of the next generation of the Wi-Fi standard appears to be over. The group formed by the original three contending specifications has agreed to adopt the fourth, later specification.

The upshot? A final 802.11n proposal will now be submitted to the IEEE standards-setting organisation, possibly as early as next week.

There's a caveat, of course. The so-called Joint Proposal (JP) team will spend today and tomorrow meeting to finalise the IEEE submission. There's still a chance that one or more participants may cause the process to stumble, but there certainly appears to be a willingness to drive it forward quickly.

The JP team was formed in the summer of 2005 by the groups behind the three main alternatives for the IEEE 802.11n Task Group's final standard proposal: TGnSync, WWise and MITMOT. The decision to work together to combine their various specifications ended some aggressive rivalry between the three camps, and TGnSync and WWise in particular.

Last October, however, Intel and a number of other companies drawn from all three groups, launched a fourth group - the Intel-backed Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) - to make the 802.11n proposal more suitable for consumer electronics and mobile applications.

By December 2005, negotiations between the JP and the EWC had ended in an "85 per cent alignment" between the two specifications. Now, it seems, they're all the way there. Last night, JP members voted almost unanimously to adopt the EWC's specification. Some 40 companies voted in favour, and there were two abstentions. No one voted against the move.

802.11n is predicated on MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) techniques to boost bandwidth by an order of magnitude above the standard of today's Wi-Fi networks. The technique makes use of "multi-path" interference that might once have been minimised to drive up the network's range.

With a final proposal submitted by the IEEE Task Group, the specification should become a draft standard under the auspices of an IEEE Working Group before being finally ratified as a standard by the organisation. ®

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