In September 2003, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) announced plans to develop a standard that would raise the effective throughput of wireless local area networks (WLANs) to at least 100Mbps.
Offering to triple the average speed of the 802.11a standard, and double the number of possible user connections, the 802.11n standard was immediately earmarked for use in airports, hotels, cafes and other public spaces. As the first wave of digital home entertainment hit the scene, the 802.11n standard with its potential to provide multiple data channels, was also promoted as ideally suited to data-intensive multi-media, and high-resolution digital video.
This is when it all got a little messy.
Already offering per-standard products with 802.11n specifications, telecommunications giants and IT vendors lined up against each other in three separate camps.
In the yellow corner the WwiSE camp, comprising heavyweights such as HP, Broadcom, AT&T, Texas Instruments, Motorola and Conexant, argued in favour of using four MIMO antennas, providing reduced but more reliable throughput.
In the blue corner the TGn Sync group boasted members including Agere Systems, Cisco Systems, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung and Nortel. It argued in favour of two MIMO antennas, and 40MHz channels.
And to confuse the issue further a third proposal called MitMot was also launched by Mitsubishi and Motorola.
None were able to secure the 75 per cent of votes needed from the IEEE's working group that is necessary to create a fully ratified standard. While the TGn Sync proposal was ahead by a nose in the last vote in September, it was forced to join with its competitors to create a joint proposal.
This was presented to the IEEE working group in November. The outcome is expected to be revealed later this month. Now that the three groups are working together full specifications are expected by mid-year.
If all goes according to plan the 802.11n specifications will fully ratified and published by April 2007, by which time the market for high-speed WLANs will be well underway.