Wireless Systems Design

Not More WLAN Alphabet Soup!

Just when you thought it was safe, another 802.11 standard variation has emerged on the scene. This standard is known as 802.11n. Its intention is to enable next-generation Wi-Fi, which is capable of sustaining data throughput in excess of 100 Mbps.

In actuality, work on the 802.11n higher-speed standard began about this time last year. But things are just getting interesting, thanks to a consortium of semiconductor and consumer companies that joined together under the auspicious title of WWiSE (worldwide spectrum efficiency). The participating companies include Airgo Networks, Bermai, Broadcom, Conexant Systems, STMicroelectronics, and Texas Instruments.

In hopes of moving its progress along, this consortium has submitted a standard proposal to the 802.11 Task Group N. The WWiSE proposal details a standard that achieves a 540-Mbps data rate. It meets stringent worldwide regulatory requirements. At the same time, it provides important legacy interoperability with existing Wi-Fi devices. Will this proposal be accepted by Task Group N? Or will it be thrown aside in favor of some other, more compelling solution? Ultimately, Task Group N will have to make that call. Yet there is some evidence to suggest that the WWiSE may be on to something.

The WWiSE proposal came out of the collaboration between developers and end-product manufacturers from the Wi-Fi marketplace. These two key segments will both need to buy into the final 802.11n standard. The WWiSE proposal can be globally deployed. In addition, it preserves previous investment through backwards compatibility with all other Wi-Fi standards. Essentially, this proposal builds on the existing, globally accepted, 20-MHz channel format that's currently employed by Wi-Fi devices. As a result, it should ensure support for the existing installed base. It also should improve Wi-Fi network performance within the designated RF spectrum. The WWiSE member companies are even offering a royalty-free license option, which is designed to facilitate the worldwide deployment of 802.11n technology.

With this slew of benefits propelling it forward, you can certainly expect to hear more from the WWiSE consortium in the coming months. The 802.11 Task Group N also will eventually weigh in with its opinion. For more information on the WWiSE proposal, go to www.wwise.org. In the meantime, feel free to send me your thoughts on the newest addition to the 802.11 alphabet soup. I can be reached at [email protected]

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