Faster Wi-Fi Proposal Passes Hurdle

Consumers are one step closer to a faster Wi-Fi standard.
Consumers are one step closer to a faster Wi-Fi standard after competing groups voted Wednesday to agree on a proposal led by Intel, Atheros and Broadcom.

As a result of a 40-0 vote (including two abstentions) the Enhanced Wireless Consortium joint proposal will be heard by the IEEE standards-making body when it convenes next week in Hawaii.

Wireless groups see the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard as breathing new life into Wi-Fi, offering consumers increased speed, fewer "dead spots" and use by video and phones, as well as Internet access. For example, 802.11n Wi-Fi is expected to up to 4-5 times faster than 802.11g, and upwards of 50 times faster than 802.11b, the most commonly used protocol today.

The EWC was formed in 2005 by a splinter group of Wi-Fi companies dissatisfied with the lack of progress toward a new specification.

Atheros, a backer of the plan, said the agreement demonstrates extraordinary support for the EWC-based proposal. "Adoption of this specification is a huge step forward," said Bill McFarland, Atheros chief technical officer.

"This is the hardest hurdle that needs to be passed," said McFarland. While McFarland refused to name the companies that abstained from voting, he said Airgo Networks, the leading developer of MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology likely to be used in 802.11n, voted for the agreement. Airgo recently announced it has shipped more than 5 million of its True MIMO chipsets used in equipment from Netgear, Linksys, Buffalo and Belkin.

"We're really excited," said Dave Borison, Airgo's Director of Product Marketing. "There is now a first draft and we're back in the IEEE." Airgo had objected to the EWC working outside the traditional standards process.

How did Atheros, Intel and others convince the holdouts to join the EWC camp? EWC worked with companies to include their interests in the final proposal, according to McFarland. The group ensured issues touching on 802.11n in phones and in consumer electronics were made part of the proposal.

In December, the Joint Proposal team, composed of members of the TGnSync, WWise and MITMOT, a Motorola and Mitsubishi group came to near agreement.

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