A more stable version of the draft 802.11n standard has been approved, with another on the way. The IEEE body has voted to approve a draft 1.10, with the more stable draft 2.0 now undergoing a 30-day review process, called a letter ballot. Comments can be submitted on draft 2.0 as IEEE members vote for or against the proposed draft.
The original draft 1.0 had major problems with poor throughput and interoperability between different manufacturer's kit. As many as 12,000 revisions were suggested - including a great many duplicates - resulting in the more stable draft 1.10.
When fully developed, 802.11n will offer 300Mbps wireless networking, as opposed to the 54Mbps offered by the current standard, 802.11g. The new standard will also bring improvements in both wireless security and range. Draft 2.0 will also have a more sustainable speed. Importantly, all early-adopters with draft 1.0 routers will be able to upgrade their firmware to draft 2.0.
Although 300Mbps is only a theoretical speed, expect 802.11n to deliver wireless that's as good as standard Ethernet.
Draft 2.0 will be good news for consumers who have been holding off buying draft 802.11n kit for fear it wouldn't be compatible with the final version of 802.11n. The Wi-Fi Alliance is to start testing the compatibility of draft 2.0 kit by the middle of the year, with a view to pre-certifying some hardware as 802.11n compliant - despite the standard not being finished.
The final ratified version of 802.11n is still some way off, and is likely to be approved sometime in 2008. The sluggish approval process has attracted plenty of criticism during the development of 802.11n; the approval body meets only four times a year.
Voting for draft 1.10 had a 98 per cent approval rate, with 293 votes approving, six disapproving and 14 abstentions.