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802.11g heads for standards approval

The latest wireless networking specification is on track for standards approval, which should open the door for further adoption of the already popular technology.
Written by Richard Shim, Contributor
The latest wireless networking specification is on track for standards approval, which should open the door for further adoption of the already popular technology.

A working group within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), an organization responsible for setting standards for the networking industry, finished work on the most recent version of the 802.11g wireless networking specification last week. That version, 8.2, will likely be the final form of the 802.11g specification, which is expected to be approved as a standard at an upcoming IEEE meeting on June 12.

The standardization could increase the momentum of 802.11g. While some companies have already taken the plunge, basing products on the specification, the more conservative yet influential players such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft have been waiting for the specification to become a standard.

Companies have cited the technology's incompatibility with 802.11b as the main reason for their hesitation.

"Prestandard 802.11g products have been popular, but the market has been held back because of interoperability jitters," said Brian Matthews, publicity chair for the IEEE's 802.11 working group. "But with a standard, companies can now be assured that the door is open for interoperability testing and approval by the Wi-Fi Alliance," an organization that certifies Wi-Fi products.

Matthews is also an employee at AbsoluteValue Systems a Melbourne, Fla., developer of Linux-based software for wireless LAN (local area network) products.

Manufacturers who already use 802.11g in their products have been rewarded. The specification has bolstered the growing global market for wireless networking gear, according to a study done by the Dell'Oro Group. Products based on 802.11g accounted for 16 percent of the wireless networking market's revenue and 17 percent of shipments in the first quarter, researchers said.

And with a standard looming, other companies may be more comfortable to start developing and selling 802.11g products.

Intel is one such company. Last Thursday the chipmaker said will begin using the technology in its Centrino bundle of chips sooner than it had planned. Centrino is composed of a new low-power Pentium-M processor, a chipset and Wi-Fi components tested by Intel.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, which hadn't intended to use the technology until the first half of next year, has decided to start production by the end of this year of a Centrino package that includes an 802.11b/802.11g component. Later it plans to include 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g together in the wireless bundle.

Intel based its decision, in part, on the progress that the specification has made in the standards and interoperability approval process, and the spec's growing popularity, according to Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president.

Another remaining hurdle for Wi-Fi technology is security, something the IEEE has been working to address with its Wi-Fi Protected Access and 802.11i specifications.

The 802.11g specification allows Wi-Fi networks to transmit data at 54mbps, uses the 2.4GHz radio band and is meant to be compatible with equipment based on earlier 802.11b wireless technology. Wi-Fi lets people wirelessly access and share resources on a network.

The changes in version 8.2 of the 802.11g specification compared to version 7.0 were not drastic, said Matthews, but "that is in the eye of the beholder."

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