LONDON A group of leading players in the WLAN sector have formed a consortium to try and break the deadlock in agreeing a standard for the proposed 802.11n high data rate Wi-Fi.
Calling itself the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC), the twenty-seven companies say they hope the move will “accelerate the IEEE 802.11n standard development process and promote a technology specification for next-generation wireless local area networking (WLAN) products.”
The group which includes Atheros Communications, Airoha, Cisco, Intel, Sony, Winbond, Apple, Broadcom, Conexant, D-Link, Lenovo, Linksys, LitePoint, Marvell, Metalink, Toshiba, USRobotics, WildPackets, and ZyDAS, with additional members expected to join the consortium says the specification and proposal provides a blueprint for WLAN semiconductor manufacturers to develop chipsets for interoperable, high performance WLAN products across a veriety of brands and platforms.
Two competing IEEE 802.11n Task Group factions, TGn Sync and WwiSE, agreed in June to
work together to come up with a single 802.11n proposal for the IEEE's November session. Speculation had been that influential WLAN chip makers Atheros, Broadcom, Intel and Marvell were moving outside the IEEE process to work on some of the technical aspects of 802.11n. But all four companies have joined the EWC and are apparently willing to work collaboratively on the standard. The consortium stresses the specification draws on proposals from both TGn Sync and WwiSE.
William McFarland , Atheros' chief technical officer, said the majority of disagreements among the companies about the technical aspects of the standard have been settled. These disagreements, McFarland said, pertained to minor aspect of the standard, as well as larger issues, such as backwards compatibility.
"Anyone looking at this [draft specification] will be surprised," McFarland said. "They will not see anything new or different, but a set of particular compromises that have been agreed upon by the companies."
The EWC specification defines technologies that address the PC and networking equipment market, as well as emerging handheld and consumer electronic applications.
The consortium's specification supports speeds of up to 600 Mbit/s, and it is considering the inclusion of other advanced technologies – including Space Time Block Coding (STBC) and beamforming – that will enable systems to deliver greater range for wireless products.
They say the major goal of the EWC is to secure support from both TGn Sync and WWiSE to present a united proposal to the IEEE 802.11n Task Group.
The consortium will make its draft product specification available for public download and provide implementation rights to all silicon suppliers and system vendors who join the organization.
Members of the EWC will continue to work within the Task Group “to facilitate a ratified 802.11n standard.”
If ratified by the IEEE, the member companies say they would make all intellectual property necessary to the specification available to all on reasonable and non-discrimatory terms.
The EWC specification calls for PHY transmission rates up to 600Mbit/s; enhanced efficiency MAC with frame aggregation, which the group says brings actual throughput closer to the raw PHY rate, providing end users with at least 100 Mbit/s application level bandwidth; 20MHz and/or 40MHz channel support; use of 2.4GHz and/or 5GHz unlicensed bands; spatial multiplexing modes for simultaneous transmission using 1 to 4 antennas; and enhanced range via multiple antennas and advanced coding.
Members of the consortium were quick to applaud the effort to accelerate resolution of the impasse for an 802.11n standard.
For instance, Michael Lu, CEO of Airoha, said: “We feel that by bringing a widely-accepted specification to the IEEE, the EWC is taking the lead to hasten the standards process.”
Craig Barratt, president and CEO of Atheros, suggested, “the EWC is the catalyst necessary to establish an IEEE standard that will drive adoption of high-performance WLAN devices. Early availability of interoperable products will benefit consumers and, ultimately, the entire WLAN industry.”