Finally Ratified: 802.11n Will Replace Today’s Wi-Fi By 2011


After years of “draft” products, there’s now an official fast Wi-Fi standard. Expect it to take over very quickly

Standards-maker the IEEE has finally given formal approval to the 802.11n standard for faster Wi-Fi, which has been built into products for at least two years.

Standards at the IEEE are produced by a lengthy process, where vendors frequently lobby for their fav oured solution, and which can sometimes be derailed by disagreements. In the case of the faster Wi-Fi standard, the arguments were all over some four years ago, and vendors have been bringing out products that meet “drafts” of the final standard since then.

Wi-Fi speeds are variable, but 802.11n is significant, because it boosts Wi-Fi to comparable performance to wired Ethernet. Wi-Fi vendors have predicted it will spark a move to replace wires with wireless – or at least not to bother wiring up every desk, relying instead on Wi-Fi.

It also gives mainstream Wi-Fi equipment the option to move from the overcrowded 2.4GHz band to the clearer 5GHz band, where there are more channels, and fewer competition with other devices and technologies such as Bluetooth and microwave ovens.

“The much more reliable and higher speed wireless of 802.11n cuts both capital costs incurred during deployment or refurbishment of network infrastructures, and invariably cuts annual operational costs to such a degree that the new wireless network pays for itself within 9-18 months,” Roger Hockaday, director of marketing, EMEA for Aruba Networks, told eWEEK Europe earlier this year. .

802.11n will supersede the existing 802.11g standard fairly rapidly, according to vendors. “This year we will see pricing get down to the current level of 802.11g,” said Selina Lo, chief executive of Ruckus Wireless, a company which only moved into 802.11n’s 5GHz band in March this year.

“By 2011, people will start to discontinue their 802.11g products, and it will all be 802.11n” said Lo.

Other IEEE standards that are causing debate include one where HP has acted against a virtualisation standard that it believes favours Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). Among a vast range of networking standards, the group is also currently producing a “green Ethernet” standard which cuts power consumption by wired switches.

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