802.11n ratification planned for Sept., draft products to interoperate

The IEEE will hold a vote on Sept. 11 for 802.11n ratification. The Wi-Fi Alliance says that all products certified to the most recent draft version of the high-throughput wireless LAN technology will be compatible with the final specification. Conservative enterprises that have held out for a final version of 802.11n will now have investment protection.

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The Wi-Fi Alliance announced this week that the IEEE 802.11n wireless LAN technology standard will be ready for a ratification vote this September, with only small optional changes to the current draft version on which most current enterprise 802.11n products are certified.

Mark Gast, chief strategist in the office of the CTO of Trapeze Networks, announced on his blog that the specification could come up for a vote on Sept. 11, exactly seven years after the first meeting of IEEE's High Throughput Study Group, now known as the 802.11n Working Group.

Edgar Figueroa, executive director of the Wi-Fi alliance, said the more than 600 products that have been certified to the 2.0 draft version of 802.11n will be backwards and forwards compatible with the final version set for a September vote.

"This means that any enterprise that had any hesitation about buying 802.11n should no longer wait," Figueroa said. "Every device we have ever certified is going to be fully certified now. There may have been folks who were waiting for the specification to be finalized [before investing in 802.11n] in case there were details that might jeopardize interoperability. We addressed many of the concerns that may have existed."

The small number of optional techniques in the final version of 802.11n should not affect interoperability, Figueroa said. Those techniques include packet aggregation for improved performance and space-time block coding for improved reliability.

Victoria Fodale, senior analyst with research firm In-Stat, praised the news but described it as anti-climactic, given that the Wi-Fi Alliance has already certified more than 600 products on the draft standard, including more than 100 enterprise-grade access points and wireless switches.

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"It's too soon to know what the final impact will be, but what will really be good is that we should have products conforming to the final spec out by Christmas time, which will be good for both consumers and enterprises," Fodale said.

She said conservative enterprises, particularly financial services companies -- which have been slow to adopt 802.11n technology prior to ratification -- could open up their spending on the technology.

"Now they can rest assured that they will have certified products operating in their environments that will be future-proofed," Fodale said.

She added that the finalization of 802.11n will eliminate some of the proprietary features some vendors have included in their products.

"If they are certified, there won't be some of these proprietary solutions out there that might muck up interoperability with other vendors' products," Fodale said. "There's stuff that happens, especially with the big vendors [that] add things to make their products work better. And all of a sudden, they don't work as well as they could with some other vendors' products. It's not that they completely don't work, but there are just a few hiccups."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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