Momentum Builds Around 802.11g Final Draft; IEEE Seal Expected Mid-June


Wireless vendors are firming up market positions as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers moves the final draft of the 802.11g standard toward ratification June 12.

Brian Mathews, chair of the IEEE's Publicity Committee, said it appears all open issues have been addressed and the path is clear to submit the final version for ratification.

Final ratification is significant, said Mathews, due to customers buying prestandard products that have turned out to be incompatible with the final product.

"Now it's final, so people can be comfortable with buying .11g products because there's a final standard so there will be no further changes," said Mathews. "And, of course, the Wi-Fi Alliance will do interoperability testing to make sure the products do, in fact, interoperate. That's the point of a standard."

Vendors and solution providers have expressed enthusiasm about the new 802.11g standard because it promises to extend data rates from the current, popular 802.11b 11-Mbps to a projected 54 Mbps while maintaining backward compatibility with 802.11b.

While some estimates place the actual throughput connection speeds much lower, at about 20 Mbps in a crowded 2.4MHz frequency, the new standard is an improvement from 802.11b and a more affordable alternative to 802.11a.

Some chip makers, such as Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom, took early bets by shipping prestandard 802.11g products. Jeff Abramowitz, senior director for Broadcom's WLAN product line, said the company is assuring customers that Broadcom's prestandard technologies "are capable of simple software upgrades to comply with the final standard."

Other chip makers, however, such as Dallas-based Texas Instruments, have been working behind the scenes with customers on prototype devices and early designs but haven't actually shipped any prestandard products.

"We have chosen to keep ourselves pure to the intent of when the market is ready to adopt the standard because it needs to be fully blessed. It needs to be fully baked. It needs to be looked at from an interoperability standpoint," said Bill Carney, director of market and business development for Texas Instruments' Wireless Networking Business Unit.

Carney said now that final ratification is nearer, Texas Instruments is ramping up its 802.11 a/b/g solution. Texas Instruments' TNETW1130 is a single-chip Media Access Controller (MAC) and baseband processor that addresses the WLAN market's pending upgrade to 54 Mbps in the 2.4GHz and 5.2GHz bands.

"We feel we're justified in our strategy in working with our customers but not racing to market because we wanted to make sure the interoperability issues were worked out," said Carney, who estimated that new g-standard products would trickle through the channel into the market during a four- to six-week time frame following IEEE's formal announcement.