MANHASSET, N.Y. The IEEE 802.11n task group will start sorting through 61 proposals for next-generation wireless LANs in Portland, Ore., next week. The record-setting number of proposals indicates the importance of the work: a technology stake in the delivery of high-rate streaming audio, video and data in a consumer-centric wireless world.
One of the latest entities entering the looming standards battle is Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC), the European research center, which will present its smart-antenna technology to the so-called TGn task group.
TGn will define a WLAN standard that supports transmission rates between 100 and 200 Mbits/second, at least double the rate of current 802.11g/a WLAN standards.
The many proposals fall into two broad camps. One, led by Atheros, advocates using a 40-MHz bandwidth. Intel, Matsushita, Philips and Sony join Atheros in this camp, which calls itself TG nSynch. The competing World Wide Spectrum Efficiency (WWiSE) group, with Airgo as its leader, is sticking with a 20-MHz bandwidth. Standing with Airgo are Broadcom, Conexant, Mitsubishi, Motorola, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments.
"One side [TG nSynch] is interested in doubling the bandwidth to 40 MHz and doing more simplistic things on the coding side and pushing to get 2x to 3x the rates they have now," said Matthew Shoemake, president of ultrawideband startup WiQuest Communications Inc., and ex-chairman of the TGn. "The other side [WWiSE] would like to stay with 20-MHz bands and use more advanced coding techniques in combination with the MIMO [multiple- input, multiple-output] techniques."
The standards-setting process is proceeding as usual, said Colin Macnab, vice president of marketing and business development at Atheros Communications Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.), who described group formation as likely "at a fairly late stage of development."
Both Shoemake and Macnab said they were aware of the spectral-efficiency advantages of the single-channel MIMO approach, but also cited the cost and power issues associated with multiple RF front ends. Further, Macnab questioned the robustness of the WWiSE group's spatial-multiplexing techniques.
IMEC said a mix of spatial-division multiplexing, spatial-division multiple access and space-time block coding is at the core of its technology. Liesbet Vanderperre, director of wireless-design technology, said IMEC's 5-GHz MIMO-OFDM proposal balances capacity, robustness and throughput. The technology is essentially neutral and can be applied across either camp, she said.