While the impact of China's decision to opt for an encryption scheme that is incompatible with IEEE 802.11 standards has yet to be fully ascertained, it does not overshadow the rampant innovation sprouting from startups and established wireless-LAN players alike. From multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antenna technology, which is expected to form the foundation of the next generation of WLANs now being developed under 802.11n, to mesh networks and the management of the RF environment, there is much to discuss beyond the potential impact of China's decision.
Little is known about the encryption scheme at the heart of the WAPI scheme mandated by Beijing, and the official reaction to China's move has been restrained among the IEEE, the Wi-Fi Alliance and Washington. In the trenches, however, reactions have been more heated, ranging from accusations of intellectual-property license gouging and protectionism to more insidious notions of WAPI's allowing a government-sanctioned "back door" into transmitted data. WAPI has thrust the beleaguered 802.11i task group into the spotlight once again as security fears resurface.
But there's more going on at 802.11 besides security. As Texas Instruments' contribution to In Focus notes, the 802.11n task group will issue a call for proposals in Vancouver, British Columbia, next week in an effort to standardize technologies that will allow WLANs to reach rates of 200 Mbits/second and higher. Enhanced modulation and coding schemes, expanded bandwidths and closed-loop methods are being evaluated, as Agere observes in its contribution. But Airgo contends that few technologies offer the potential of MIMO.
Standards for mesh networks are also in early development. At a November plenary meeting, the 802.11 working group formed a mesh-networking study group, which will hold its first meeting next week in Vancouver. Strix Networks' contribution outlines the key concepts and one approach to mesh networking.
Work also continues on swarm logic for managing RF networks (see Propagate Networks' entry) and ways to bond channels to enhance WLAN throughput (as described in Atheros' contribution).