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New Hope for 802.11n Wi-Fi Standard

The Enhanced Wireless Consortium indicated last month that its proposals for the draft 802.11n standard are now substantially aligned with the work of the IEEE's working group. This is good news for most of the stakeholders in the process.

ABI Research has reported on this process before, most notably when a group of companies led by Intel formed the EWC, apparently in opposition to the groups (TGn Sync and WWiSE) responsible for the so-called "joint proposal" for the new standard.

When EWC was formed, observers suggested it was a spoiling action aimed at Airgo, the innovative chipmaker whose MIMO designs � never claimed as "pre-n" � were already in wide use. Some also feared that the new group would create a stalemate with the IEEE standards working group.

ABI Research disagreed that this development would derail the process. The just released update to its comprehensive "Wi-Fi Research Service" notes, "While this has led to media reports suggesting the IEEE process has been hijacked by the EWC and is now irrelevant, ABI Research believes this view is far-fetched."

That view now appears justified. "It looks as if the EWC's proposals and the existing 'joint proposal' dovetail well," says senior analyst Sam Lucero, "and we hear that a draft standard may appear as early as January."

Does this development hurt Airgo? If so, they're putting on a brave face. "They say that they have all the fundamental technical pieces to do what EWC is recommending," Lucero notes. "But they had a good 18-24 month lead on the rest of the market in terms of pushing this MIMO-based technology out. Suddenly that has been erased. If EWC's proposals are accepted, tiny Airgo will be up against Atheros, Marvell, Intel and others."

On the positive side, ratification of a standard would move the whole market forward, benefiting everyone. Either way we will see real "11n" and "pre-11n" chipsets on the market by the end of 2006.

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