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Uncertainty stalls sales of Draft-N Wi-Fi routers

Wireless networking vendors have been telling me for months that the 802.11n standard, although unratified, is so almost-done that any changes in the final spec could be added to Draft-N devices via a firmware upgrade.
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Written by Rik Fairlie on

Wireless networking vendors have been telling me for months that the 802.11n standard, although unratified, is so almost-done that any changes in the final spec could be added to Draft-N devices via a firmware upgrade. Apparently they’re talking to the wrong people.

A research firm just released a report showing that the wireless LAN market grew by only 4 percent in 2007 (over the same quarter in 2006). The reason? Both SOHO and enterprise buyers are spooked by the transition to 802.11n, according to the Dell’Oro Group. SOHO users were put off by the costs of Draft-N routers, which were initially twice as expensive as 802.11g products. The company says that just 18 percent of SOHO wireless routers shipped in the last quarter of 2007 were Draft-N. It predicts that inexpensive new Draft-N routers available now, like this Linksys model, will tamp down prices by year’s end, and that nearly 40 percent of SOHO wireless routers shipped in 2008 will be Draft-N.

Among enterprise buyers, Dell’Oro says sales have been slow because IT departments are taking more time in testing the new 802.11 Draft-N products. It also cites the current economic downturn as another reason for sluggish sales.

Unfortunately, the 802.11n standard will not be ratified anytime soon. Netgear told me not to expect the final spec until late this year or the first quarter of 2009. One reason why the ratification is so snail-like is that there are an ever-increasing range of products that will connect to networks, and more companies are involved in the process. Apparently, they’ve all got a lot to say.

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