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Tech firms agree on faster Wi-Fi standard

A group of 27 technology companies said on Monday they would collaborate on a new, faster Wi-Fi wireless Internet standard for computers and other portable devices.
/ Source: Reuters

A group of 27 technology companies said on Monday they would collaborate on a new, faster Wi-Fi wireless Internet connection standard for computers and other portable devices.

The alliance, dubbed Enhanced Wireless Consortium, joins previously separated camps that were heading towards separate standards for wireless networking.

It includes some of the biggest wireless chipmakers such as Broadcom and Intel as well as network equipment maker Cisco and portable computer makers Lenovo, Sony Corp and Toshiba Corp.

The companies want to ratify the standard for improved Wi-Fi networking ahead of schedule, and they will provide first drafts of a specification that allows companies to develop new Wi-Fi chips before the standardisation has been completed, they said.

“It is possible to have the standard ratification done by late 2006, if we can accelerate. It’s reasonable to expect products out before then, in the first half of 2006,” said Bill Bunch, director of product management at Broadcom.

The original time frame, as part of the normal IEEE standards development process, was for 2007.

Broadcom became a leading Wi-Fi chip provider by introducing products ahead of official ratification, and Broadcom and many of its rivals again wish to start building new Wi-Fi products based on first drafts rather than wait for the official seal.

'Twice the range'
The new Wi-Fi standard is known as 802.11n and follows the 802.11a, b and g standards. The n-version is billed to be two to 10 times faster than current Wi-Fi technologies and will enable high-quality wireless video transmission in office and home networks.

It is also designed to have superior reach. “We have twice the range. We can really get to the last nook and cranny of the house,” said James Chen, a senior product marketing manager at U.S.-based chipmaker Marvell.

And it promises to make Wi-Fi a viable means of wirelessly connecting consumer electronics products such as video recorders and television sets.

“We see additional consumer electronics companies coming on board,” Bunch said.

The n-standard will be compatible with current Wi-Fi standards, which means old and new Wi-Fi-enabled devices can connect.

The n-standard boosts performance by using multiple antennas and more efficient use of the radio spectrum because it requires less information to make sure data is correctly communicated between devices.

Instead of wasting 50 percent of the connection with traffic information, the new standard uses 30 to 40 percent, Chen said.