IEEE 802.11 Standard’s Evolution

The evolution of wireless technologies brought lessons that are now driving the draft 802.11n efforts:

1) The WLAN industry made the right move of supporting legacy 802.11b rather than establishing a new and potentially higher-performing frequency band at 5 GHz, which could cause incompatibility among products.

2) Improving throughput in environments filled with interference from neighboring wireless networks means increasing the number and size of channels. The 802.11n task group is using the 5 GHz spectrum to make this possible. Because of better channel utilization, most 802.11n products are expected to deliver data speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 300 Mbps.

3) There is a need for IEEE working groups and Wi-Fi Alliance to work in parallel, particularly with more and more products released into the market. Last year, the alliance began with the 802.11n certification process along with the IEEE 802.11n working group, a move that helped remove issues and differences as regards the standard.

4) Resolving latency problems is imperative in order for advanced applications like video streaming and VoIP to work on networks.

5) Any new protocol should manage packet overhead to make data transmission more efficient. IEEE 802.11n standard comes with frame aggregation capability, which allows for combining and sending a series of frames with one overhead frame without having to wait for each packet to be acknowledged individually.

6) Consensus is key to speedier agreement on standards. The creation of the Enhanced Wireless Consortium enabled competing camps to resolve technical issues and obtain consensus faster. The EWC came out with a draft that has gained universal acceptance with the IEEE 802.11n working group and is expected to be approved by early next year.

7) Wireless devices do not only refer to PCs anymore, thus a new wireless protocol must embrace other consumer electronic gadgets, which are used in tandem with home and corporate networks.

8) The demand for higher data transmission speeds means a need for more than one antenna and more than one radio stream, features that are inherent in draft 802.11n.
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