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After more wrangling and politics than Simon Crean’s PR selection battle, the IEEE has finally ratified 802.11n wireless technology. But is it now too late?

After months of wrangling, the IEEE has decided on a final specification for 802.11n, the successor to 802.11g. Forget about ‘Pre-N’, ‘RangeMax’ and the rest; there’s simply no point in buying them. That’s because, with every single day that passes, we’re getting increasing numbers of wireless vendors letting us know that they’ll be releasing pre-802.11n geart by the middle of the year.

That’s not Pre-N in Belkin’s MIMO marketing sense, that’s Pre-N proper, conforming to the draft specification of the IEEE 802.11n standard proposed by the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) and backed by the IEEE’s Joint Proposal (JP) team.

This timing has clearly bitten most wireless vendors on the behind. Belkin has only just released an ADSL router version of its triple antennae MIMO router; Netgear is set to push further RangeMax kits into Europe – including the RangeMax 240; while another vendor (who wishes to remain anonymous) has revealed to us that it will launch a cut-down version of the Airgo MIMO chipset as already used in Linksys’ SRX 200 in (the U.K) Spring. Two words for that: too late.

A new type of ‘Pre-N’
This confusion can only aid the advent of draft spec 802.11n kit and indeed, some vendors are already moving to make things clearer and move forward. This morning, Buffalo told us it has stopped producing its MIMO kit altogether.

It’s been well documented that Airgo’s latest generation non-standard MIMO chipset will blow the standard speeds out of the water. But while Netgear’s RangeMax 240 gives blistering performance, it has the unfortunate side effect of killing other signals – such as any standard 802.11g networks nearby – stone dead.

What does this all mean for Airgo? Vendors that teamed up with Airgo for proprietary releases simply aren’t afraid to dump them in favour of a return to more traditional partners such as Broadcom and Atheros, especially since Airgo seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place trying to push a non-standard, albeit high performing system.

Broadcom’s CTO Henry Samueli hasn’t been shy in proclaiming that his company will be first with proper 802.11n draft chips. A glance at Broadcom’s traditional partners (Linksys, Belkin, and Buffalo) tells its own story about how we can see the market developing.

 


 

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