IEEE 802.11n spec set for first draft vote

After much wrangling between opposing interests among the members of the IEEE, a first draft for the Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11n specification will be voted on by the membership later this week.

The compromise draft, which represents the work of a joint sub-committee, is expected to pass, according to Bill McFarland, a member of the IEEE and CTO at Atheros.

Although it is now water under the bridge, the original debate divided the group into two camps. Some believed that ratification of the specification was taking too long; so the EWC [Enhanced Wireless Consortium], made up of mainstream Wi-Fi players (Atheros, Cisco, Intel, Symbol and Toshiba), was formed. Others, including Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung, wanted more in the way of power management for handsets and VOIP devices.

From first draft to final approval will take about a year. However, 802.11n products are expected to ship by midyear, McFarland said.

"Long before final ratification, the draft becomes stable, and once the core is extremely consistent, it makes people feel comfortable to design products," McFarland said.

The benefits of 802.11n are quite dramatic. Performance at the physical layer is expected to reach 300Mbps in initial products using two antennas, then over time scaling to 600Mbps using four antennas.