IEEE approves 802.11n high-speed Wi-Fi standard

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has finally approved the 802.11n high-throughput wireless LAN standard.
Bruce Kraemer, the long-time chairman of the 802.11n Task Group (part of the 802.11 Working Group, which oversees the WLAN standards), last week sent out a notification to a listserv for task group members, which includes a wide range of Wi-Fi chip makers, software developers, and equipment vendors.

The organization posted a press release stating it approved the 802.11n-2009 amendment, dubbed WLAN Enhancements for Higher Throughput, which specifies capabilities such as data rates, quality of service, reliability, range optimization, management and security.

One of the task group’s members, Meru Networks, posted the message on a blogpost.

The Task Group was formally launched on Sept. 11, 2003. A “Study Group” had been formed a year earlier, to weigh the feasibility of creating a standard that would be the basis for wireless LANS with a minimum of 100Mbps throughput. Today’s Wi-Fi-certified WLAN products, based on draft 2.0 of the standard, typically deliver from 150Mbps to somewhat over 200Mbs, based on two spatial streams.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has said it will update its Wi-Fi certification program on Sept. 30 to begin testing WLAN products that meet the full standard. Only a few additions have been made to the standard in the past 2 years, and these all involve optional features. According to the Alliance, users can expect future Wi-Fi products to be fully compatible with today’s products.

Here are some key dates in the development of the standard:

September 2002: IEEE’s High-Throughput Study group kicks off to explore feasibility of boosting wireless LAN performance.

September 2003: IEEE creates 802.11n Task Group, charged with creating a 100+Mbps wireless LAN standard.

October 2004: Belkin launches a “pre-11n” access point, based on the first commercial MIMO chipset from Airgo Networks (later acquired by Qualcomm).

July 2005: Draft 1 wins approval, amid acrimonious debate and politicking among now-forgotten proponents of competing technologies.

July 2006: Dell announces draft-11n internal Wi-Fi adapter, based on Broadcom silicon, for some of its newest laptop models.

August 2006: W-Fi Alliance reverses its long-standing policy of not testing WLAN gear until a standard, in this case 11n, is finally and formally certified.

March 2007: Draft 2 wins approval.

May 2007: At Interop, Colubris, Trapeze, and Ruckus Wireless announce enterprise 11n network gear, to be eventually certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

June 2007: Wi-Fi Alliance launches its 11n interoperability testing and certification program.

September 2007: Burton Group Analyst Paul Debeasi, in a controversial report, asks whether 802.11n means the “end of Ethernet” for network access. Cisco unveils its first 11n access point. November 2007: First large-scale 11n deployment, at Morrisville State Collge with Meru WLAN products, is operational.

January 2008: Marvell unveils 3×3 MIMO 11n chipset, dubbed TopDog 11n-450, promising a 450Mbps data rate.

August 2008: BT North America survey finds one-third of 226 companies in the study are migrating to 11n over the next 12 months, and another 20% in the following 12 months.


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