IEEE approves 802.11n standard after six years

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

A router and wireless access point
Image: Jonathan Zander.

On Friday, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) ratified the next generation of Wi-Fi Alliance certification known as 802.11n. The path to ratification began on September 11, 2003 with 11 major drafts of the specification over the course of six years. Even though just approved, wireless devices have been available on the the market for over two years, running on what is known as "draft n" or "pre-N".

The 802.11n standard operates on both the 2.4Ghz and 5.0Ghz frequencies. This will allow it to be backwards compatible with 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g, provided that the base station has dual radios. The speeds of 802.11n are substantially faster than that of its predecessors with a maximum theoretical throughput of 600Mbit/s.

Very few additions were made to the 802.11n draft standard over the last two years, so most if not all "draft n" hardware available on the market today is expected to be compatible with n-standard devices available in the future. In a similar process of the upgrade from "pre-G" to 802.11g, it is expected that most manufacturers of wireless hardware will release new firmware to bring all draft devices up to full standard compliance.


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