The Troubled Development of 802.11n Continues

Carl Weinschenk

The long slog to 802.11n -- the offspring of 802.11a, b and g -- continues. The reality is that the industry may still be a distance from the finish line. This piece begins by reviewing the battle that led to the establishment of a draft standard. Two groups, TGn Sync and World-Wide Spectrum Efficiency (WWiSE), battled for a couple of years. In early 2006, the two agreed to a compromise standard.


End of problem? No. The story says the earliest a final standard will emerge is late this year or early next. Perhaps even more troubling is that one company, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, has not signed the letter of agreement promising not to sue users of its intellectual property. Meanwhile, vendors have released many "draft standard" products. The problem is that despite promises, there is no guarantee that the gear will work with the eventual standard.


The insecurity certainly isn't slowing vendors. ChannelWeb highlights three introductions that vendors made in recent weeks. On Monday, Meru Networks introduced the AP440, a four-radio 802.11n access point that offers 1.2 Gbps of capacity. Trapeze Networks' MP-432 AP is a dual-band device with radios that operate on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum. Finally, Ruckus Wireless introduced SmartMesh, a system that enables organizations to deploy WLANs quickly, cheaply and to optimize performance, the company says. A great deal of detail on all three introductions is offered in the story.


A heavyweight chip maker also is getting into the act. Broadcom's BCM4342 product is comprised of a single-chip 802.11n solution and unified access point software, according to eWEEK. The system can be used in a standalone access scenario managed by a wireless switch or by a controller using the company's wireless switching software, the story says.


Organizations must be aware of what they are getting into. This bMighty posting, which is based on comments by Ruckus CEO Selina Lo, says 802.11n has a bevy of new or newish elements. The story points to frame aggregation, channel bonding, the use of multiple radios and multipath signaling as the innovations.


The meat of the piece is a look at five misconceptions about 802.11n. The truth is that the new approach is "highly susceptible" to degradation over distance. The blogger points out that the promised 100 Mbps of throughput often won't be reached and that interference still is an issue. It will take time for 802.11n to displace 802.11g in the client and the thought that the higher level of bandwidth makes multimedia easily achievable is untrue. The best initial use of 802.11n is 802.11g mesh network backhaul.


Companies thinking of deploying 802.11n need to pay attention to power. A few years ago, deployments of 802.11 were limited by the need to be near power sources. In 2003, the situation improved when 802.11af -- Power-over-Ethernet -- enabled enough power to be sent through the Ethernet cable to drive the APs. However, according to this story in Embedded, in many instances, 802.11n requires more power than PoE provides. A new standard, PoEPlus -- 802.11at -- is working its way through the IEEE. This could alleviate the issue. Until that standard is set, however, organizations must carefully consider power limitations before deploying 802.11n.

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