Growing WWiSE: Motorola Joins Fight for 802.11n

Growing WWiSE: Motorola Joins Fight for 802.11n

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Written By Eric Sandler

Motorola’s proposal lost, and that’s the WWiSE group’s gain. As expected, that leaves just two consortiums to fight for the votes it will take to become the basis of Wi-Fi’s future.

If at first you don’t succeed—jump in with the competition. That’s what Motorola is doing in the fight for an 802.11n wireless standard.

When the IEEE 802.11 Task Group N (TGn) began, there were four complete proposals for the future high-speed wireless standard, and about four times as many partial proposals.

Now all the partials are gone, and the two individual companies with complete proposals—Qualcomm and Motorola—have pulled out of the running to join up with the industry consortiums that are left.

Last month, Qualcomm joined TGn Sync, which boasts members such as Atheros, Agere, and Intel. At the last meeting of the IEEE 802.11 Working Group in January, this group got a majority of the vote.

As of today, Motorola (which was essentially eliminated in the voting last month) is now a member of the World Wide Spectrum Efficiency (WWiSE) consortium. With that addition—plus some concentrated lobbying of Working Group members before next month’s IEEE meeting in Atlanta—WWiSE hopes to turn the tide toward its proposal.

Nothing is ever clear-cut with voting in IEEE meetings, however. Jim Zyren, director of marketing at chipmaker Conexant (a WWiSE member), represented WWiSE today in a conference call with the press. He says, “Right now, there’s 450 qualified voters in 802.11 in general. Anyone can vote on any issue in any Task Group. At the last meeting, 350 people showed up, and about 250 individuals cast votes.” He pegs the percentages from the last vote as 55 percent for TGn Sync, 35 percent for WWiSe, and 10 percent for Motorola.

“The gap is now about 10 percent, based on simple arithmetic,” says Zyren. Reaching out to 25 or so members who didn’t vote last time might make all the difference.

Then again, it might not mean anything for a while. Whichever camp wins the next vote between TGn Sync or WWiSE isn’t guaranteed to become the 802.11n specification. The winner must then garner a 75 percent vote of support from 802.11 Working Group members to be pushed through.

So even if TGn Sync wins next month, Zyren says WWiSE won’t disband.

“If, after two tries, they can’t get that [support], the process could back up and [WWiSE] could come back to life, reincarnated,” says Zyren. “For that possibility, the group will remain intact.”

He cautioned, as has TGn Sync in the past, that neither group wants to see a repeat of what happened in the 802.15.3a/Ultrawideband standard, which ultimately led to two groups coming up with UWB technologies that don’t necessarily interoperate.

What exactly is the difference between the two 11n proposals? Both propose use of multiple-in, multiple-out (MIMO) architecture, after all. It’s how they go about using it that differs. For one example, TGn Sync wants the mandatory channel width to be 40MHz, with only two antennas needed at minimum. WWiSE wants 20MHz mandatory, with four antennas (with 40MHz channels as an option). WWiSE believes this will make the 11n standard more backwards-compatible and regulation-friendly worldwide, as 40MHz channels are not permitted in Japan and in areas of Europe.

Hopefully, with MIMO at the forefront of both proposals, compromise will come sooner rather than later.

“We look forward to working with TGn Sync to get a proposal we can live with,” says Zyren.

WWiSE engineers are working on an updated proposal with Motorola input now, and the Web site indicated a draft will be uploaded for viewing by March 7, 2005.

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