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802.11n Wi-Fi Still Not A Real Standard, Yet

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 17 comments

802.11n may finally become an actual standard by September.

While many consumers have used 802.11n wireless routers for around two years now, it was assumed that the 802.11n standard was finalized before now. However, that's not the case as verified by Bob Heile, the chairman of the IEEE 802.15 working group on Personal Area Networks. In a recent email, Heile confirmed that the IEEE 802.11n draft standard was finally submitted to the Standards Review Committee (RevCom).

"On other fronts, 802.11 was granted unconditional approval to forward 11n to RevCom," Heile wrote. "After a bit of a rocky period on getting acceptable coexistence language included in the draft, I was pleased to support this approval. Congratulations to Bruce for his patience and perseverance in getting this done. This was an extremely complex project."

According to PC Magazine, the road to this point has been a long one for the 802.11n standard, its evolution dating back to 2004. An early draft version was approved in January 2006 (1.0) that would eventually kick-start the first wave of routers implementing the draft-n standard. But when the draft 802.11n standard failed to pass in May 2006, the Wi-Fi Alliance eventually agreed to certify the draft-n--or rather pre-N, based on Draft 2.0--products in June 2007.

However, based on Heile's recent email, the 802.11n struggle is expected to come to a full close by September 11 instead of the predicted January 2010 publication date.

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  • 0 Hide
    weilin , July 22, 2009 12:43 AM
    so... Did manufacturers jump the gun? Can draft N 1.0 be firmware flashed to the final standard like they were betting? If not, then what about 2.0 ones?
  • 2 Hide
    nekatreven , July 22, 2009 1:06 AM
    They jumped the gun for sure and, they knew what they were doing. It was all marketing bs. For one most users don't need 300mbps of wLAN bandwidth (assuming you upgrade ALL of your kit and can get the speeds anywhere near spec). The Internet will still go as fast as before.

    I used to work at a small ISP and I got so tired of people calling and complaining that "they got a 300mbps router and our service was still limiting them to -insert plan speeds here-". They just didn't know any better than what the salesman told them.

    Also, 99% of the "rangebooster" and "super-duper range N" is crap. Almost all have internal antennae with boosted power levels. A WRT54GL with the high gain set and dd-wrt can be had for (in most cases) half the money and it KILLS all this N crap the Best Buy/Frys kid wants you to buy.

    @weilin
    I don't have much to add to the compatibility conversation, but basically all N products had G and B modes. If you happen to find a half-assed v1 N product I suspect you could kill the N mode altogether and be all set. ...its better than nothing :) 
  • 1 Hide
    eddieroolz , July 22, 2009 2:52 AM
    So it's still not a solid standard yet?

    It's certainly taking an awful long time to finalize the N standard...
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , July 22, 2009 4:12 AM
    I don't know but does it have something to do with the radiation?
    Any wireless device and standard has an amount of radiation it is allowed to emit, like Wireless B&G have around 1Watt for notebooks that can be emitted.
    I thought that because Wireless N uses 3 antenna's each able to transmit 1Watt each, that it might be an issue as those multiple antenna's actually give off more watts than are healthy for a person to receive on his lap.

    Or are there other reasons why Wireless N is no standard yet?
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , July 22, 2009 4:22 AM
    nekatrevenThey jumped the gun for sure and, they knew what they were doing. It was all marketing bs. For one most users don't need 300mbps of wLAN bandwidth (assuming you upgrade ALL of your kit and can get the speeds anywhere near spec).

    The speed of N isn't the only benefit.
    Benefit is that N uses 3 (or more) antenna's, angled in different angles (preferably in X, Y, Z coordinates.)
    These antenna's can receive signal bouncing off of walls that a regular B or G router, and even SuperG routers with more than one antenna) have difficulties with.
    My Netgear Super G router was one router before Wireless N generation,and has 6 or 8 antenna's (forgot exactly how many), but all antenna's inside the router are aimed from the center outward in 360 degrees around the Y axis (the vertical axis).
    In other words, the antenna's are mounted in a 2D plane.
    Laptops with Wireless N often have 2 antenna's in the screen and one on the side of the laptop angling it in a XYZ 3D plane.
    So signal strength by receiving the signal through the best antenna, is probably more important on Wireless N than the total speed Wireless N has.

    Speeds of 300mbits (around 30MB/s) are actually good for routers with multiple computers connected, where not only a network is served, but also where computers share data in adhoc networks or environments.
    That way, eg: 2 computers could share files with eachother at around 15MB/s.
  • -5 Hide
    xyzionz , July 22, 2009 5:54 AM
    N is pricey compared to G/B routers
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , July 22, 2009 6:49 AM
    yeah, expensive. i have to yet to find an advantage/function of the faster connection. here at home, i reduced the router power output to only 5% (lowest setting) yet still enjoy the G speeds all around the house and rooms.
    had to reduce it, i still fear of being hacked despite all the security measures possible i did in the router settings.
  • -1 Hide
    randomizer , July 22, 2009 7:37 AM
    I was really hoping for a 1Gbps wireless standard by 2010. 54Mbps is uselessly slow for any file sharing purposes (as in LAN file sharing, not Internet P2P), and 300Mbps isn't ground-breaking either.
  • 5 Hide
    Regulas , July 22, 2009 10:25 AM
    I may just take the time and run some Ethernet cables up through my walls and put properly done jacks in a several rooms aka like the cable jack. It is a pain but once done it will always be there, about one days work. For heavy transfer between a couple machines and security it still can't be beat.
  • 0 Hide
    jab701 , July 22, 2009 11:59 AM
    I believe the 802.11n standard is a MIMO system where as the multiple antennae system you mentioned used with 802.11g exploits beamforming.

    Beamforming is where you can make the system behave like a directional antenna using the components received at each antenna with the delays between the same signal arriving at different antennae. It also allows you to transmit in such a way that a beam is directed more towards the receiving system.

    In MIMO technology, (multiple input, multiple output) you are saying that if the antennae are spaced a specific distance apart then the channel (connection between each antenna at the source and receiver) are independent. Meaning interference on each path with be different. This means you can get a lower bit error rate on a noiser connection compared to using single a single antenna at each end. Meaning you can transmit quicker with the transmission power divided amongst the multiple transmit antennae.

    Using the same transmission power as a single antenna but spread over a number antennae (3 antennae at the base station and 2 antennae on the client) it is possible to mitigate noise and what is called channel fading (caused by the signal being reflected off different surfaces in the room).

    With 3 antennae at the base station and 2 antennae on the client you have 6 different paths so it is possible to exploit the independence of these paths by encoding the data is certain ways.

    I would go into more depth but the encoding scheme for data sent over the antennae is complex and involves solving matrices. Search the internet for MIMO Radio Communications Systems.

  • -6 Hide
    jab701 , July 22, 2009 11:59 AM
    I believe the 802.11n standard is a MIMO system where as the multiple antennae system you mentioned used with 802.11g exploits beamforming.

    Beamforming is where you can make the system behave like a directional antenna using the components received at each antenna with the delays between the same signal arriving at different antennae. It also allows you to transmit in such a way that a beam is directed more towards the receiving system.

    In MIMO technology, (multiple input, multiple output) you are saying that if the antennae are spaced a specific distance apart then the channel (connection between each antenna at the source and receiver) are independent. Meaning interference on each path with be different. This means you can get a lower bit error rate on a noiser connection compared to using single a single antenna at each end. Meaning you can transmit quicker with the transmission power divided amongst the multiple transmit antennae.

    Using the same transmission power as a single antenna but spread over a number antennae (3 antennae at the base station and 2 antennae on the client) it is possible to mitigate noise and what is called channel fading (caused by the signal being reflected off different surfaces in the room).

    With 3 antennae at the base station and 2 antennae on the client you have 6 different paths so it is possible to exploit the independence of these paths by encoding the data is certain ways.

    I would go into more depth but the encoding scheme for data sent over the antennae is complex and involves solving matrices. Search the internet for MIMO Radio Communications Systems.

  • -6 Hide
    jab701 , July 22, 2009 12:02 PM
    Hmmm I shouldnt have copied and pasted stuff around in my comment...damn!
  • 1 Hide
    cracklint , July 22, 2009 3:06 PM
    the wireless N range is the only benefit I am interested in, but it is totally crap. The range is no where as good as the claims made by manufactures. I bought a linksys wireless n router and a extended range wireless n pci internal adapter with an external antenna with a 6ft. cord. With a clear line of sight at about 250 ft., I got nothing. I eventually ran outdoor cat5 and added a $50 wireless router for half the price.
  • 1 Hide
    nekatreven , July 22, 2009 7:01 PM
    ProDigit80The speed of N isn't the only benefit.Benefit is that N uses 3 (or more) antenna's, angled in different angles (preferably in X, Y, Z coordinates.)These antenna's can receive signal bouncing off of walls that a regular B or G router, and even SuperG routers with more than one antenna) have difficulties with.My Netgear Super G router was one router before Wireless N generation,and has 6 or 8 antenna's (forgot exactly how many), but all antenna's inside the router are aimed from the center outward in 360 degrees around the Y axis (the vertical axis).In other words, the antenna's are mounted in a 2D plane.Laptops with Wireless N often have 2 antenna's in the screen and one on the side of the laptop angling it in a XYZ 3D plane.So signal strength by receiving the signal through the best antenna, is probably more important on Wireless N than the total speed Wireless N has.Speeds of 300mbits (around 30MB/s) are actually good for routers with multiple computers connected, where not only a network is served, but also where computers share data in adhoc networks or environments.That way, eg: 2 computers could share files with eachother at around 15MB/s.


    For one I said most users don't need that much lan bandwidth. Most use their wifi to get the porn and facebook and poker from the router to their ass on the couch.

    I'd also argue that there are too many factors preventing the scenario from working as ideologically as you describe. Whether it is only upgrading the adapter or the router and not both, incorrectly orienting antennas on one or both ends, placing one or both devices near a high-interference device (microwave, 2.4 dss phone, baby monitor, wireless computer peripherals...EVERYTHING), running a mixed mode network, ignorantly switching to narrow band or one of a hundred other things that go wrong...

    Statistically, only a fraction of consumers ever needed more than 54mbps, and most of the ones that did have something wrong with their setup and are not getting (and may actually be losing) any extra speed or range.

    I used to do in-home wifi setups for a small ISP...2 or 3 a day. I saw all manner of hardware (and mistakes). Say what you want about N-in-utopia but I stand by my opinion that high gain external antennas on a WRT54GL with the gain boosted to ~125mw (or more if you have a fan on it) costs less and eats REAL WORLD wireless N for dinner.
  • 0 Hide
    enewmen , July 23, 2009 2:56 AM
    randomizerI was really hoping for a 1Gbps wireless standard by 2010. 54Mbps is uselessly slow for any file sharing purposes (as in LAN file sharing, not Internet P2P), and 300Mbps isn't ground-breaking either.

    I'm not sure if 1Gbps will ever happen in a 802.11 type wireless connection. 300Mbps will be plenty fast for me if it really did transfer that fast. Is there hope of true 1Gbps or 300Mbps?
  • 0 Hide
    dextermat , July 23, 2009 4:14 AM
    For a computer point of view, I have to say that Wireless N is the best kind i have tried (compared to B and G.

    The problem is in the quality of the components....

    Having defectives routers / NIC card is a real problem....

    I have many of them only lasting 8 to 15 months (of course, most just after the warrant expire)

    Hopefully most popular companies should fix the problem...(a guy can dream)Damn Dlink/linksys
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 29, 2009 6:55 AM
    THE WORST PART IS FREQUENCY SHARING
    I LIVE IN A TOWN AND I CAN GET 20 802.11G NETWORKS FROM MY APPARTMENT
    HALF USING THE SAME #6 CHANNEL KNOWNING THAT THERE'S IN FACT ONLY 3 REALLY NON-OVERLAPPING CHANNELS (20MHz)...

    HOW 802.11N WILL WORK ?
    TO MY OPINION, IF YOU WANT MORE BANDWIDTH, YOU NEED MORE FREQUENCIES

    (I BOUGTH OLD 802.11A, SO I'M ALONE AND GET BETTER PERFORMANCES THAN WITH 802.11G )