New Consortium Formed to Push 802.11n Standard

WiFi may see more rapid advancement, thanks to a new coalition determined to accelerate the IEEE 802.11n standard development process.

Twenty seven WiFi industry leaders banded together this week under the name Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC). These diverse companies have one commongoal: to speed up the introduction of the new wireless standard and promote a technology specification for next-generation wireless local area networking (WLAN) products.

Toward a Better Standard

Of course, this is not the first consortium around 802.11n. WWiSE developed a proposal last year to develop a next-generation WiFi standard capable of sustaining data throughput in excess of 100Mbps. Airgo Networks, Bermai, and Broadcom were among the companies involved in that effort.

However, Yankee Group analyst Roberta Wiggins told TechNewsWorld that this new group of companies, which includes Apple, Cisco Systems, Intel and Sony, makes a pretty powerful statement and stands a good chance of passing a standard.

“This is another step in the evolution of 802.11. It adds validity to 802.11 for business environments. Businesses are want greater reliability, security and interoperability,” Wiggins said.

The Next Level

The Enhanced Wireless Consortium said it has developed a specification that is designed to enable consumers to enjoy new levels of wireless performance, coverage and interoperability prior to ratification of an 802.11n standard. The specification defines technologies that address the PC and networking equipment market, as well as emerging handheld and consumer electronic applications.

The consortium has designed its specification to support speeds of up to 600 Mbps, and is considering the inclusion of other advanced technologies — including Space Time Block Coding (STBC) and beamforming — that will enable systems to deliver greater range for wireless products across multiple market segments and support advanced multimedia applications.

Tapping a Lucrative Market

In the second quarter of 2005, Research and Markets reported WiFi revenue increased 21 percent over the year-ago period, which posted US$613 million in revenue. Wi-Fi unit shipments were up 17 percent, according to the firm.

Apple, Intel and others have a vested interest in seeing to it that this new specification is adopted in a hurry because analysts said it will spur more market growth. “The ratification of 802.11n will take WiFi to the next level beyond early adopters,” Wiggins said.

The Consortium said a widely adopted specification will benefit consumers by, among other things, ensuring the interoperability of next-generation wireless products across a variety of brands and platforms.

Pending Ratification

The EWC will make its draft product specification available for public download and will provide implementation rights to all silicon suppliers and system vendors who join the organization.

If the EWC specification is ratified by the IEEE, EWC members have agreed to make their intellectual property necessary to the specification available to all parties on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

Members of the EWC will continue to work within the IEEE Task Group “N” to facilitate a ratified 802.11n standard. Its specification includes many elements of previous proposals, which will accelerate the completion of a merged proposal draft within the official IEEE timeline.

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