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Wireless Networking Hardware Technology

802.11n Should Be Finalized By September 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the speedy-process dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "It's probable that the 802.11n standard will finally be approved at a scheduled IEEE meeting this September, ending a contentious round of infighting that has delayed the standard for years. For the 802.11n standard, progress has been agonizingly slow, dating back almost five years to 2004, when 802.11g held sway. It struggled throughout 2005 and 2006, when members supposedly settled on the TGnSync standard, then formed the Enhanced Wireless Consortium in 2006 to speed the process along. A draft version of 802.11n was approved in January 2006, prompting the first wave of routers based on the so-called draft-n standard shortly thereafter."
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802.11n Should Be Finalized By September

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  • by nsteinme (909988) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {emnietsn}> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @11:35AM (#28770501)
    Will the final version be (backwards?) compatible with Draft-N routers and wireless cards?
    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @11:37AM (#28770537)
      I would think that it would have to be, otherwise no one will use the real standard due to backwards compatibility. Most probably the draft version of N will be about the exact same as the final version of N.
      • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @11:44AM (#28770637) Journal

        Or Draft-N will be a subset of N such that N compliance implies Draft-N compliance.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Metasquares (555685)
        Which makes one wonder what is taking them so long to finalize it.
      • by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:05PM (#28770963)

        I would think that it would have to be, otherwise no one will use the real standard due to backwards compatibility.

        Since I've seen Draft-N devices from different companies that had a bloody hard time talking to each other, I have to ask: If it is Draft-N backwards compatible, WHOSE implementation of Draft-N will it be backwards compatible with?

        • I think most of the Draft-N hardware has allowed for firmware updates - which could allow you to implement the necessary changes to make something N compliant.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I think most of the Draft-N hardware has allowed for firmware updates - which could allow you to implement the necessary changes to make something N compliant.

            Most do, but there's a big difference between theory and practice. I notice a lot of older (but still being sold) Draft N stuff that isn't even receiving driver updates anymore (cough, cough, DLink). If a company can't be bothered to fix incompatibilities caused by XP SP3 or Vista SP1, what hope is there for getting firmware to fix incompatibilities with nonDraft-N?

        • by Bakkster (1529253) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nam.retskkaB'> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:18PM (#28771105)

          Which is, of course, the mistake of releasing, producing to, and buying products based on a draft of a standard: there's nothing standard about it.

          Trying to get compatibility to the draft could prove difficult, depending on the changes. If it isn't there, that's what you get for buying non-compliant hardware. Typical early-adopter penalty.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            It's sad that you're subject to the "early-adopter penalty" after purchasing a product that's been out for nearly 5 years...

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Bakkster (1529253)

              It's sad that you're subject to the "early-adopter penalty" after purchasing a product that's been out for nearly 5 years...

              It's sad to expect that purchasing a product built on the first draft of a protocol, rather than an IEEE standard, will be forward compatible.

              • It's sad to expect that purchasing a product built on the first draft of a protocol, rather than an IEEE standard, will be forward compatible.

                Though they do write that word "Draft" damn tiny. It's all RANGEBOOSTER N! and N ULTRA RANGEPLUS! in large fonts.

                And even the fine print is misleading. "Built on the latest 802.11n Draft technology!" "Upgrade to the newest 802.11n Draft wireless system!" The precise meaning of "draft" is never explained, anywhere; the word "standard" is only conspicuous in its absence. I know that a person should research, but in a world with programs like Windows Vista and Photoshop CS, people are used to random irreleva

                • by Bakkster (1529253)

                  Right, and I feel like the producers are the ones most at fault. They should know better, and the name "802.11n" should never have been allowed to be attached to the draft, since it's not an IEEE standard.

          • by smash (1351)
            *shrug* in the 5 years it's taken for the ratifying authority(ies) to pull their finger out, you could have purchased and de-commissioned draft-N gear.

            As far as draft-N goes, my apple airport talks to a couple of Dell draft-N notebooks, a Thinkpad, my mac mini, and some china-spec draft-N card in my main home PC.

            And in the meantime i've been able to actually stream high-def-ish content over 802.11n...

      • by klui (457783)
        Shouldn't draft-N routers have to be updated so they be compliant with final-N? Buying a draft-N product implies the standard is not yet set. So people who bought them "ought" to know that product may not be compatible with the ratified version.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Elros (735454)

          The problem with that theory is that most products don't plainly say it is based on a draft protocol. They simply say they are based on 802.11N. Any indication that it is a draft is hidden in fine print (if there at all).

          • by AlecC (512609)

            Not on the one I bought. Said "draft" on the outside of the box. I knew I was taking a risk when I bought it, but went ahead, and it worked brilliantly. The g connection which had been desperately dodgy became pretty solid with n (router and receiver from same manufacturer). Not rock solid, but dropping out only every day or two rather than several times an hour.

          • by LordKronos (470910) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:43PM (#28771449) Homepage

            Even if it is there, how many non-techie people are going to know that draft n means "this is an unfinished protocol that most likely will change in the future, possibly rendering this device incompatible with devices based on the finalize protocol".

            • by drizek (1481461)

              It can rever back to G, so people who don't know what N means probably don't even need it and won't notice the difference anyway.

            • by shentino (1139071)
              non-techie people most likely shouldn't be messing around with implementing the standard anyway.

              For much the same reason as you don't try to do surgery without going to medical school

              • Uhhhh, yeah sure. That would be nice if they didn't sell the draft-n routers at best buy along with all the ones that are based on final specs and with a sufficiently clear warning about future problems. As it is, they ARE available in the store, and it ISN'T sufficiently clear just what they are buying into, so you end up with people going to the store, looking at the offerings, and saying "I could buy this g-thingy for $x, or I could pay a littler more and get this n-thingy which is faster....I'll buy the

        • by swb (14022)

          The problem there is that the hardware vendors walk away from their products so fast and stop releasing updates of any kind for them after six months.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Rayeth (1335201)
      I wouldn't bet on it. Although given the glacial pace that the IEEE has set here, I wouldn't be surprised if nothing at all had changed.
    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wor f . n et> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:02PM (#28770921)

      Will the final version be (backwards?) compatible with Draft-N routers and wireless cards?

      Quite likely, actually. As long as your wireless devices are WiFi Draft N capable. There are two "waves" of Draft N devices (2.5, if you want to go technical). The first was released sometime around 2006 or so, and they were early revision Draft N, the ones that everyone basically said "Avoid at all costs" because of incompatibilities, interference, etc. These are most likely NOT going to work with 802.11n. The "half" wave came shortly after, where we had a flood of 802.11g routers with "extended range" and "MIMO" - they are basically early revision N wireless except re-badged as working with 802.11b/g, and using the N bits to give better range and speed.

      Then in late 2007/2008, came what we know currently as Draft N, when the WiFi Alliance (no relation to IEEE - the WiFi Alliance is a consortium of manufacturers to ensure interoperability) decided to start testing and approving devices based on the final draft spec. These will have the WiFi logo with Draft N in it, being approved for Draft N "standard" and compliance. Part of the requirement was that it was firmware upgradable to 802.11n when it finally came out. Whether or not a firmware upgrade will come out, though is another question.

      Depending on how the WiFi Alliance holds out, they may require that all WiFi-N devices must support Draft N. Or they may just say "screw you all" and make them incompatible.

      The IEEE is the stadnards body behind the spec, 802.11 being the wireless part, 802.3 being Ethernet, etc. They write the spec. Thus, standards compliance includes 802.11b/g/n, which are documents on how these devices are to work.

      WiFi is a trademark of the WiFI Alliance, so technically, calling 802.11? devices "WiFi" is incorrect, as only tested an approved devices carry the WiFi trademark stamp. They approve devices after doing interoperability testing, figuring out that consumers would be best served if devices actually interoperate (and thus everyone can sell more). Thus they created the WiFi trademark, and the approval stamps you see WiFI A, WiFi-B, WiFi G, WiFi Draft N, and soon, WiFi N.

    • by Hasai (131313)

      You're trying to be funny, right?

      Obviously, you're too young to remember SCSI-1.

      • Well I remember SCSI-1, cos I implemented lots of hardware and software for it!

        It was compatible - well some subset of the operation was vaguely compatible with some other subsets of some competitors product. Apart from that, it had enhanced performance Yay, better than compatible!

    • Draft-N devices are supposed to be firmware-updateable to the final N spec...or that's what was promised anyways...
  • So... (Score:1, Insightful)

    Any bets on how many "Draft N" products will play nice with "N" products? (and, in that vein, any boneheaded misfeatures going into "N" because Vendor X sold 15 million "draft N" chips that were a little undercooked?)
  • My computers can't even saturate 802.11g.

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @11:43AM (#28770619)
      However, 802.11n has a much larger range than 802.11g. So while you might not use all the speed, the fact that you can get a much better connection everywhere in your house makes it a better standard.
      • Re:Hooray, I guess? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hax0r_this (1073148) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:25PM (#28771191)
        Unless you use 802.11n at 5GHz, which is really necessary to see most of the speed benefits anyway. At 5GHz the range is pretty terrible.

        I get 2 bars on my iPhone from my Linksys WRT 610N from about 20 feet away through two thin walls (in the bathroom of my one bedroom apartment). The upside is that that particular router has 2 radios, so it can run on 2.4GHz simultaneously, allowing me to access it from outside where the 5GHz doesn't reach.
    • I've got two new-ish Macs, and it's absolutely painful to transfer files between them over G. Draft N (dlink router) isn't MUCH better, when you consider how fast USB2.0 or Firewire is, but sometimes I just can't be bothered to hook up the cables.

      • 3 years ago, I would have killed for 300 Mbps wireless (even if I only got half of that in actual use).

        Today I'm transferring 15 GB MKVs. By the time I'm anywhere near ready to upgrade to N, I'll be moving around 50 GB blu-ray images.

        Running a wire across floors is ridiculous.
        (Can't run it through the wall without cutting into drywall and drilling through the fire block... and this is an apartment...)

        I figure my solution in the near future will involve an eSATA connection.

        • by swb (14022)

          Maybe the better solution is getting out of your apartment once in a while.

        • (Can't run it through the wall without cutting into drywall and drilling through the fire block... and this is an apartment...)

          I live in an apartment I own (saying it like that in case "condo" is not a universally recognized term) - is your problem that you don't own it and so can't alter it? Or is there some other reason? What is the "fire block" you mention? The only fire protection we have is fire resistant grade drywall (thicker and more fire resistant than the drywall for interior walls) but it has

          • Correct - we rent.

            A fire block is a literal blocking in the wall space that prevents the spread of fire. Without it, all that open air between the drywall layers of your walls is just like a road map for the fire to spread to each and every room.

            A fire block is typically a 2x4. It's not meant to stop the fire, but to prevent your house from being completely engulfed in flames in 20 seconds.

            In my situation, I wanted to drop a line from upstairs to downstairs. The cable line comes in downstairs, and is spl

    • Seriously? 802.11g peaks at around 2MB/s in real-world usage, typically closer to 1.5MB/s. I was using (cheap) computers a decade ago that could push more data than this over a wired network. My current laptop can easily handle over 10MB/s, if the link supports that much bandwidth. If your computer can't, then you can pick up a second hand Pentium 3 that can easily saturate 802.11g for next to nothing these days.
    • Re:Hooray, I guess? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @11:50AM (#28770739) Homepage

      Try streaming HD video, especially when there is some distance between you and your access point. Then you will understand why N is long overdue.

  • Oh goody (Score:5, Funny)

    by piphil (1007691) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @11:50AM (#28770745) Homepage Journal
    Oh goody. Now I can get dropped connections from twice the distance!
  • Yay (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @11:54AM (#28770813)

    now i can finally use the technology that i've been using for the past 3 years!

  • No (Score:3, Funny)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:06PM (#28770971)

    802.11n SHOULD HAVE BEEN finalized over a year ago.

    • by YoniX (1474885)
      or 3 years ago, based on their glacial speed.
    • Don't worry, as soon as 802.11n is finalized, technology will have progressed to 802.11o so we'll have to wait another 3 years until that is finalized. At which point, we'll have 802.11p. :)
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Don't worry, as soon as 802.11n is finalized, technology will have progressed to 802.11o so we'll have to wait another 3 years until that is finalized. At which point, we'll have 802.11p. :)

        802.11o looks to be free, but 802.11p is used. But given the way 802.11, 802.11a-k,m,n,p,r-z are allocated, they've already gone into the double letters. I'm guessing the missing letters were from committees that didn't quite make it or disbanded.

        Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/802.11#Standard_and_amendments [wikipedia.org]

        I sugges

        • by dotgain (630123)
          Letters like i, j and o are often avoided in numbering schemes due to their similarity with digits.
          • by dotgain (630123)
            And I'll do everyone else the favour making myself look like a dick here: It seems 802.11i and 802.11j have in fact been used, after a brief search.
  • Troll much? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:06PM (#28770979)

    Jeez did someone get a little trigger happy with the troll mod in this thread?

    • Re:Troll much? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheCycoONE (913189) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:21PM (#28771133)

      Clearly someone doesn't want any mention that the standard was delayed.

      They probably think this line from the summary is trolling too: "ending a contentious round of infighting that has delayed the standard for years."

      • They probably think this line from the summary is trolling too: "ending a contentious round of infighting that has delayed the standard for years."

        It is a troll - it implies those working on products were in-fighting, when it was the Australian government that screwed everything up [wikipedia.org], at least in recent history.

  • Great news (Score:4, Funny)

    by arugulatarsus (1167251) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:28PM (#28771231)
    Now maybe some networking companies can start releasing wireless N products.

    On another note, imagine how much the nerd herd is going to have to work to sell a netowrk product now.
    Chuck: "OK, you can get this router which is a draft N, but this new N product will do everything the draft N product does for 20$ more"
    Client: "All these letters confuse me and make me belligerent. Can't we only use one letter? "
    Chuck: "Ok, howabout N?"
    Client: "Why not something simpler, like A, A is the best you know."
    Chuck: "Just give me 150$ for the router a 75$ for an extended warranty."
    Client: "Here you go, I am easily parted from my money."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:28PM (#28771233)

    to Wyfy

  • ah, marketing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @01:02PM (#28771693) Homepage
    once again steering the fail-boat that engineering is driving, until she wraps around a phone pole, hits a standard, and kills a company or two.

    "draft" N is exactly why i make sure marketing does not get to see developer mailing lists and content at my slave site. why in the holy hell SHOULD the production standard be compatible, or even remotely similar to, its draft??
  • What next? (Score:3, Funny)

    by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @01:10PM (#28771811)
    IPv6 will be adopted by the masses?
  • ....that will be immediately supplanted by yet another 'standard,' once again brought to you by the moronic greed-heads who couldn't come to an agreement in time to get 802.11n out the door before it was already obsolescent.

  • by Bassman59 (519820) <andy.latke@net> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:01PM (#28773265) Homepage

    I have a copy of one of the draft PCI specifications. In big bold letters it tells the reader to "NOT DESIGN PRODUCTS BASED ON THIS DRAFT STANDARD." Because the very definition of "draft" means that it's not complete and it's likely that the final specification will deviate from the draft in some ways.

    I suppose the standards folks have no real way of enforcing that edict (an aside: the USB Implementers group are particularly toothless), but still -- anyone who buys a product based on a draft spec should not be surprised when it doesn't work with products built to the released spec.

    • by DrGamez (1134281)
      I can imagine a small portion of those people who bought draft-N know this, they were just tired of waiting while everyone bickered and fought about what should be the final product. I've considered getting a draft-N router because 1.5mb/s really doesn't cut it for trying to stream anything worth watching on a larger screen.
    • by smash (1351)
      Meanwhile, people have shit they want to get done (eg, streaming pirate hi-def video over their home network) and 802.11draft-N works just fine. Today. And has done for at least a year or two. I'm all for standards, but when it takes 3+ years for a standard to get a rubber stamp, when it works just fine already; something is wrong. From reading TFA, one of the hold ups mentioned was "acceptable co-existence language" mentioned in the draft. Sounds to me like the standards committee is broken.
  • by Drathos (1092)

    Does this mean that CSIRO finally signed the Letter of Assurance that IEEE has been asking for?

  • The final version of the spec will be called "802.11n Forever"

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