Finally! Ratified 802.11n Standard To Be Published In October


But the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has finally ratified the 802.11n standard. It happened last Thursday, and the IEEE said it will publish the finalized amendment -- all 560 pages of it -- in October.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, which certifies 802.11-based products, stated back in July that baseline requirements for certification would not be changing, and it appears to have kept its word. Many enterprises began migrating to 802.11n networks based on products that the Wi-Fi Alliance had certified under a 2007 draft of the standard.

The ratification of 802.11n happens a full seven years after it was first proposed, and should now put to rest concerns by vendors and VARs, who by offering and selling equipment in "draft n" form were essentially asking customers to buy on faith that the standards wouldn't later be changed.

"This was an extraordinarily wide-ranging technical challenge that required the sustained effort and concentration of a terrific variety of participants. When we started in 2002, many of the technologies addressed in 802.11n were university research topics and had not been implemented," said Bruce Kraemer, chair of the IEEE Wireless LAN Working Group, in a statement. "The performance improvements achieved via IEEE 802.11n stand to transform the WLAN user experience, and ratification of the amendment sets the stage for a new wave of application innovation and creation of new market opportunities."

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Vendors, VARs and other wireless industry observers also hope that the ratified 802.11n standard will help rejuvenate a tough year for wireless LAN sales.

The Dell'Oro Group's most recent Wireless LAN Quarterly Report, released in mid-August, suggested that supply shortages hampered global wireless LAN shipments in the second quarter of 2009, with the shortage most significantly impacting enterprise-class products.

"The overall wireless LAN market sales were about flat quarter to quarter at just under $1.0 billion," said Tam Dell'Oro, president and founder of Dell'Oro Group, in a statement. "We calculate that sales would have risen about 5 percent had it not been for component shortages such as high-speed memory chipsets. U.S. government stimulus programs are turning into sales orders faster than people expected. It is not clear that the shortages are over."

In its analysis for the first quarter of 2009, in which the worldwide WLAN market was seen to contract 15 percent from the previous quarter, Dell'Oro suggested 802.11n was the "only bright spot" in WLAN.