RealTime IT News

802.11g Delayed Again As IEEE Cancels Meeting

In light of recent events, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has decided to cancel its regular policy-making meetings for the 802.11 and 802.15 Working Groups -- scheduled to take place next week in Bellevue, Wash. -- meaning further delays for the deployment of high-speed wireless LANs (WLAN) over the unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum space.

The IEEE members had been set to ratify Intersil's Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) modulation proposal as the official standard for 802.11g, which dictates all next-generation chipset reference designs to transmit data at rates of up to 54 megabits per second (Mbps). Approved in 1999, the current standard 802.11b only transmits at maximum rates of 11 Mbps.

The move gives a clear competitive edge to WLAN equipment suppliers that only focus on a third specification -- 802.11a, which is comparable to 802.11g in speed but uses a less crowded part of the eletromagnetic spectrum. Companies like Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Atheros Communications Inc. already have reference designs on the market and recently struck a deal with chip giant Intel to help ship products faster.

In an email sent to IEEE members late Thursday, 802.11 Working Group Chairman Stuart J. Kerry and 802.15 Working Group Chairman Bob Heile said:

"Many of the task group chairs in 802.11 have announced or advised the Chair that they will be unable to make it to Bellevue, along with a number of the membership. That coupled with the continuing uncertainty in the reopening of the nation's airports & flight system is making the prospect of having a productive meeting extremely unlikely."

The September meeting in Washington was supposed to be the final hurdle for Intersil to get its OFDM proposal ratified. In May, the proposal modulation scheme beat out a competing proposal from Texas Instruments but, since then, has been mired by bureaucratic procedures and bipartisan rancor.

Because the meeting will not be rescheduled, the delay means the 802.11g standard won't be taken up again until November, when the IEEE convenes in Austin, Texas.

Still, the lead sponsor of the proposal isn't upset with the delays. In fact, Jim Zyren, Director of Marketing at Intersil's PRISM Wireless Products business who has spearheaded the company's ratification efforts, called for the meeting to be cancelled.

"Actually, we were very happy to see the meeting was cancelled...What's more important to us was that people and their families have peace of mind. It just didn't make sense to go forward with the meeting next week," said Dennis Eaton, Intersil's Strategic Marketing Manager.

"Yes, it pushes things out a couple of months. But if technology gets pushed back a couple of months, it's far less important than what's else has happened this week."