New Wi-Fi standard delayed again

The long-awaited 802.11n Wi-Fi standard that will speed up wireless access won't likely be finalized until 2008.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
The long-awaited next-generation Wi-Fi standard has been delayed again and won't likely be ratified until sometime in 2008.

The new standard that will allow notebook users to connect to wireless access points at much faster speeds than is currently available was expected to be finalized later this year.

In January, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) approved a draft version of the standard called 802.11n, after much controversy and infighting among chipmakers. A second draft was due for the standard by late fall of this year, but now a new draft won't likely be ready until January 2007. This could push back the final ratification of the standard until 2008.

The delay in adopting a standard has been caused by the nearly 12,000 changes to the draft that have been submitted to the standards group.

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"The current draft has generated a lot of comments," said Rolf De Vegt, senior director of business development for Airgo Networks and a member of the IEEE 802.11n working group. "I think this proves that draft 1.0 wasn't really mature. And now it just takes time to deal with all the comments. The working group should be able to vote on the new draft with changes in early 2007."

Meanwhile, manufacturers looking to get a jump on the market have already released products, which they claim are compliant with draft 1.0 of the 802.11n standard. Companies, such as Dell, have already announced notebooks that will be outfitted with draft standard 802.11n wireless cards. Wireless routing companies such as Netgear and Linksys also have released draft 802.11n products.

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Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group, said it's unlikely that these draft 802.11n products will comply with the eventual standard once it's completed. He doesn't believe that these products will be able to be upgraded to the standard either. But he said these products may work fine for consumers who only plan on using the equipment in their homes.

"It's silly to think that the first draft n version would be the eventual standard," he said. "But that is all right for consumers who just want to use the equipment at home. They don't have to worry about compatibility or even upgrading their old equipment."

Mathias also said he doesn't expect the delay in the standard to stall the market.

"It's better to make sure the standard is done right," he said. "Eventually, 802.11n will be the only Wi-Fi flavor that matters. Once it's out no one will care about 802.11a, b or g. That's why it's important to get broad industry support."