Further delays for high speed wireless

The final standard for 802.11n is still being thrashed out and could slip until 2008 as submissions reach record levels

Wireless vendors who pressed ahead with products designed to conform to the first draft of the long awaited 802.11n standard could face interoperability and performance issues as wrangles delay the ratification process.

Final ratification was expected early next year, but the first draft, itself delayed, received in excess of 12,000 responses and it could now take that long to get to the second draft stage. Moreover, some of the vendors involved believe final ratification could slip to 2008.

This is new territory for the IEEE whose Ethernet standards normally sail through ratification with minimal delay. On the plus side most of the amendments have been minor and easily dealt with, but the process is time consuming nonetheless. Added to which there are still issues important issues to be settled, such as the technology to use when combining channels for extra bandwidth, for example.

In the meantime chipset makers Atheros and Broadcom have both released silicon which they claim conforms to the so-called "Draft n standard". Moreover they reckon they will be able to handle any modifications required to meet the final specification through firmware.

Rival chipmaker Airgo, on the other hand, has held back, claiming that differences in the MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology employed can lead to compatibility problems.

Both with other Draft n products and existing 802.11b/g solutions. Problems which have been encountered in independent tests performed on products from companies such as Buffalo, D-Link, Linksys and Netgear, which also show only minor gains in throughput and range compared to current MIMO implementations.

"Initial test results show that Draft 1.0 was not as stable as some in the industry would have us believe and call into question the validity of so-called 'draft n' products." said Greg Raleigh, CEO of Airgo Networks.

"Airgo will continue to pursue its strategy of waiting until a more mature, stable draft is established before introducing products that comply. In the meantime, we continue to offer the highest-performing, most mature MIMO product on the market and are confident that consumers will continue to choose the superior performance our chips offer."

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