Wi-Fi's Turn To Have A Standards Battle
By Mike Masnick, Tue Jul 13 00:30:00 GMT 2004

Because there haven't been enough wireless standards battles lately, two sides are gearing up to fight for their version of the next generation of Wi-Fi equipment.

Last month AirGo received some attention for its "pre-standard" 802.11n offering using MIMO technology to offer speeds up to 100 Mbps for the next generation of wireless LAN equipment. One of the major problems with pre-standard standards equipment (which might better be called "proprietary standards with a shiny coat of marketing paint") is that another company might come up with its own "pre-standard" standard implementation that doesn't work at all with the previously announced pre-standard standard. That's how consumer confusion occurs, which is never a good thing when trying to build up a new technology's acceptance.

While some standards battles are always going to occur, when two camps line up and simply can't agree, the situation turns out like UWB, where real acceptance of UWB technology is going to be delayed at least a year, if not more, thanks to consumer confusion, as each side tries to convince the world that its UWB is the one true UWB, while the other is simply an impostor. Users don't care about which standard is real, they just want to make sure the equipment they buy will work with everything else that has the same label. It benefits everyone to figure out a way to make a standard really standardized.

However, that may not happen in the 802.11n next-generation Wi-Fi world either. Following the AirGo pre-standard story, Agere is proposing its own version of 802.11n that is quite different than AirGo's version. As in the UWB case, both sides are lining up big names to take sides. Just like with UWB, Intel is backing one camp (the Atheros' camp) while Motorola is backing AirGo. We've seen this movie before, and a sequel isn't called for. It's about time these companies realized that they're only harming the market they're trying to create by not coming to terms on a compromise solution. It's obviously quite early in the 802.11n process, so perhaps things won't go that far. However, with the UWB example looming, things look a little too familiar.