With 802.11n Finally Set, the Wi-Fi Alliance Should Take a Bow

Carl Weinschenk

Somewhere, a bunch of planners should take the afternoon off, designate a driver and buy each other a beer or two. The cause for celebration is the finalization earlier this month of the 802.11n Wi-Fi spec.


The promulgation of the standard, as Engadget points out, goes back seven years. The process got off to a very rocky start. Two approaches, each with powerful backers, contested what the final standard should look like. In March of 2007, the IEEE jump-started the process by approving a "draft N" standard. It was agreed that a requirement for draft N status was the ability to upgrade to the full standard once it was agreed upon.

That transition already is under way. Today, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced the evolution of certification from draft to full standards. The alliance's press release says that the new certification regimen includes everything that was required of draft N gear and adds four requirements, which are listed. The sense is that the additions are not specifically tied to the draft N to full N transition, but rather that the milestone was used to update the tests in a more general sense.

dBrn Associates president and No Jitter contributor Michael Finneran provides a nice backgrounder on what to look for in the 802.11n sector. After summing up the savvy way in which the Wi-Fi industry in general and the Wi-Fi Alliance in particular handled the long gestation period of the standard, Finneran describes why the technology was worth the wait and highlights some bandwidth considerations. Though the standard has been set, the field will change dynamically as time passes. 802.11n relies on multiple send and receive antennas. As these are added-there theoretically can be four of each -- the particulars of deployment change. Thus, the role of the Wi-Fi Alliance will not be diminished in the near future.

The strategy employed by the proponents of 802.11n has enabled it to become a mainstream part of 802.11 which, in turn, has become a key player in the overall wireless world. Craig Mathias writes that 802.11n will be a key player at both the ends of the spectrum. Comparatively low-capacity versions of 802.11n will be used for personal-area networks, sensors and radio frequency identification (RFID) networks. At the higher end, 802.11n will play a role in the deployment of High Speed Packet Access and Long Term Evolution (HSPA and LTE) networks, Mathias says.


The beers? They are for an industry that didn't do things in a traditional way. If the industry didn't think quickly on its collective feet, the 802.11n process easily could have slipped into a morass. Manufacturers may only have been at the starting gate now -- 802.11n just may not have developed at all. Instead, there is a thriving market in draft N equipment and the industry will almost certainly glide smoothly into the full 8.211n era. Well done.

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