Next-generation wireless networks in development

30 Jul 2004

SANTA CLARA: Work is under way on developing a new, faster wireless networking standard that will allow users to send files quickly or stream video content within the home.

The next-generation wireless standard being proposed will be known as 802.11N. Currently available standards include 802.11A, B and G. The former two standards can transfer data at 11Mbps and the latter has a theoretical maximum speed of 54Mbps. Assuming 60pc efficiency, the new standard should offer in excess of 160Mbps.

“The idea is that with each successive generation of wireless networking there is roughly a five times improvement in throughput,” said Boyd Bangerter, a director of the wireless protocols lab within Intel. The chip maker has taken part in a task group for almost two years in preparing 802.11N for ratification to the IEEE, a ratification body for technical standards. The final proposal will be presented in Berlin in September and is likely to be approved by the second half of 2006.

The group of companies collaborating on the proposed standard includes Agere, Athenos, Nokia and Sony. Much of the discussion to date has centred on technical features to increase the speed of wireless connection as well as the efficiency of the signal.

“The primary value driver for 802.11N will be the digital home, allowing more robust in-home wireless video distribution and faster file transfer on the home network,” said Bangerter. “What’s important to users is throughput.”

Other uses for the new wireless networking standard will also be found in the corporate market, Bangerter added. “We see a big push towards voice-over IP in the enterprise.” Although this application is technically possible with current wireless technology, the greater speed afforded by 802.11N will allow for greater quality, he said.

“We really wanted 802.11N to be flexible enough to cater for enterprises, home users and wireless hotspots, but we get a feeling within the industry that it is really useful for the digital home and maybe for consumer electronics,” Bangerter added. Already today, most wireless access points are sold to the home market, he pointed out.

One of the objectives for 802.11N was that it should coexist with devices that conform to previous wireless standards.

By Gordon Smith