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802.11n Wi-Fi spec nailed down, at last

Broadcom already sampling compatible chips

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Broadcom has begun sampling the first wireless chipsets that support the 802.11n draft specification that was finally approved yesterday for submission to the IEEE for ratification as a standard.

The chip maker claimed its Intensi-Fi WLAN chipset family supports the specification agreed by the IEEE Task Group, but is software-upgradeable to ensure they remain compatible with the standard should it change while it's gaining IEEE approval.

The finalisation of the 802.11n draft specification ends months of fighting between groups of companies touting their own visions of how the technology should work and what features the standard should deliver.

In August 2005, the three main rivals agreed to merge their respective suggestions into a combined Joint Proposal to the Task Group. In October, however, Intel and a number of other companies launched a fourth group, the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC), in a bid to make the 802.11n proposal more suitable for consumer electronics and mobile applications.

Last week, the JP team and the EWC agreed to align their specifications and to work to combine them ahead of yesterday's Task Group meeting. Clearly they were successful.

The specification must now be formally submitted to the IEEE's 802.11 Working Group. Its engineers will vet the specification, tweaking it if necessary. Each modification must be put to the vote and win the support of 75 per cent of voters to be set in stone.

The final Working Group specification will then be submitted to the broader IEEE for ratification as a standard. That could happen late 2006 / early 2007. ®

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