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802.11n Nears The End of the Approval Road

A pair of events have resonated through the wireless LAN market in recent days, marking the beginning of the end for the ratification of the 802.11n standard.  The first was a blog post by Matthew Gast, chief strategist for Trapeze Networks and member of the IEEE's 802.11 working group, proclaiming that the 802.11n is in essence, one meeting away from final approval, which could come as soon as September. If approved at meeting, the process to ratification will have taken seven years to the day to complete.

The second is a press release from the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA), announcing that there will no significant changes made to the baseline of their WiFi interoperability certification.  In fact, the only change that will be made will be the inclusion of the optional functionality additions made to the specification since Draft 2.0.  More importantly, however, all of the 600+ devices that have been WiFi-certified over the past two years automatically will be considered certified to the final 802.11n when the standard is officially approved, without the need to retest the device.

What This All Means

While final ratification of the 802.11n standard will certainly bring a collective sigh of relief to wireless hardware vendors the world over, ultimately the busiest people at the WLAN companies will in be the marketing department, frantically removing the "Draft 2.0" from all product literature and slapping the new WiFi-Certified logo on the product packaging.  Enterprise customers and the press will be no doubt be inundated with press releases from the same marketing departments, announcing a litany of products support the now-final 802.11n standard and have achieved official WiFi certification.

But to the rank and file of enterprise IT staff, ratification in September will likely just be another day in the office, simply providing another proof point for their ongoing wireless infrastructure plans.  "The pending ratification is a minor comfort in the grand scheme of whether to take our large (2,000+) AP wireless network to 802.11n, ", says Lee Badman, Wireless/Network Engineer for Syracuse University, "but there is a ridiculous amount of hype attached to 11n, and to achieve the most lofty of promised performance gains, you may have to change your entire wireless way of doing business."

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