It's Back To The Drawing Board For 802.11n Wireless Standard

IEEE 802.11n wireless

Only 46.6 percent of members voted to approve 802.11n 1.0, falling short of the 75 percent required to pass the draft.

Greg Raleigh, CEO of wireless chipset vendor Airgo, pointed to the vote as evidence that significant changes to improve interoperability with legacy devices are required.

"[The] outcome proves that Draft 1.0 was not as stable as some in the industry would have us believe. It calls into question the validity of so-called 'draft n' products, Raleigh said in a statement, referring to the spate of "pre-standard" devices that have flooded the market in recent weeks from vendors such as Cisco Systems' Linksys division, D-Link and Buffalo Technology that are compliant with the 1.0 draft.

Airgo rivals Atheros Communications, Broadcom and Marvel have been touting chipsets based on the 802.11n draft.

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Bill Bunch, director of WLAN product marketing at Broadcom, said the draft was not expected to pass on its first try and that the vote should not be seen as a defeat.

The working group will now take the comments from member's ballots to make decisions about how the issues should be resolved in the next draft, which could result in changes, he said.

"It's safe to say that a new draft will be created. To say what will change would be speculative," Bunch said. The possible changes will likely be tweaks, not a major overhaul to the standard, he said. "If changes occur, each vendor will have to evaluate them," he said.

Some analysts have cautioned customers against devices built on draft-based 802.11n chipsets. "There will be wide variability between them, and true interoperability between vendors is still wishful thinking," said Alan Varghese, principal analyst for wireless semiconductors at ABI Research, in a recent report. "Consumers and business users should be wary about their purchases, at least [until] final ratification of the standard, which is expected sometime in 2007."