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802.11n Spec Still In The Air 119

Vitaly Friedman writes "Standards for the hotly anticipated Wi-Fi successor haven't yet been agreed upon. Where's that leave all those early-bird products? 802.11n is a highly anticipated successor to today's Wi-Fi, promising a huge performance boost. The draft spec promises to deliver data rates up to 180 Mbps, which could make wired home networks unnecessary and should allow high-definition wireless video streaming. At issue is whether the draft spec is far enough along that companies can make products that will provide that performance but still be compatible with each other and with older Wi-Fi equipment."
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802.11n Spec Still In The Air

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  • No Wires! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by celardore ( 844933 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:41PM (#15263958)
    I don't care what they settle on. If I can get 180mbps from one part of my house to the other, without pesky wires - I want it sooner rather than later.
    • by Aqua_boy17 ( 962670 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:52PM (#15264069)
      I know, I can't wait until my neighbor upgrades so I can check this out. :P
    • Yeah! 180mbps should be enough for anyone!
    • The problem is, without standards, every brand of product is going to have a different way of doing it. In the end, you might not even get 180Mbits if you mix and match brands.
    • The problem will come for the far-too-early-adopters when they buy a brand new laptop in two years and suddenly they can't get it to work with their existing infrastructure.
    • You are American, right? :^)

      If you don't care about standards then you can already buy proprietary solutions to give you that.

      Just don't come back wailing when you get stuck with products from only one provider because they don't support a well-defined standard...

      I know someone who already has a 108Mbps wireless network at home but he's aware that he'll have to either stick to his current vendor for new hardware, or completly replace his hardware when the time comes to upgrade.

      As for myself - I'm re

    • Have you ever actually tried wireless inside a reasonably well built home? Quality at times is terrible. Oh, these are american homes with their hollow walls. Never mind.
  • by Tezkah ( 771144 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:42PM (#15263963)
    putting the cart (the product, in this case the routers) before the horse (standards).

    nothing could possibly go wrong!
    • Speaking of which, I would like to say that I genuinely appreciate all early adopters that make it possible for technology to quickly advance without me having to spend an arm and a leg. Thanks to LOTS of people with disposable income, the PC's that I buy at my local thrift store at $25/each are FANTASTIC! I don't know what all of the wealthy geeks are using their new fancy equipment for, but I don't care! If not for them, I wouldn't be able to know that I don't even have to look at the specifications fo
    • You know...these days we do have horseless carriages (called Cars) that transport horses using an attached trailer.

      nothing could possibly go wrong!

      Until you drive behind one and get horse shit blown on your windshield. It sucks :(
    • Hasn't it been that way with every wireless Ethernet iteration ? I seem to remember the first 802.11g products were using some sort of proprietary protocol as well, you know the sort, with "extreme" in the name (d-link was always notable for this).
  • by Trifthen ( 40989 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:43PM (#15263977) Homepage
    Can we please, PLEASE make the next spec. avoid the overcrowded 2.4Ghz range? Every time I use my microwave, my connection becomes unusable.
  • In the Air (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:44PM (#15263985)
    802.11n Spec Still In The Air


  • The trouble with those "up to" specs for wireless devices is that they're achieveable only when nobody else is using the spectrum. Pumping HTDV around your house is likely to work only when you're some distance from anyone else using that band.
    • Better systems, like newer cellphones, modulate their power so that they only use as much as needed to get a good data rate. Thus, if your neighbor is using this, and you are using it, the systems shouldn't interfere, because both will use minimal power.
      However, if you neighbor's neighbor is stealing bandwidth from him, the signal spillover might affect you. (:-(
      • Power management reduces, but doesn't eliminate, interference. What I'd like to see is a phased-array antenna, like those used on modern radar systems and communications satellites, only cheap enough for widespread use. That would greatly improve signal strengh and reduce interference.
    • 802.11n specifies a slew of technology options that two communicating parties must negotiate. Only by using all of these options can the highest speeds be achieved. Some of the options include channel bonding, multipath (MIMO), delayed acknowledgements, four dimensional subspace propagation, and downhill signalling with lizard farts. You need them ALL to get the theoretical maximum of 300 Mbps (on a 600 Mpbs signalling medium). The only way to get them all is with so-called "green field" deployment (e.g., w
  • by loftwyr ( 36717 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:46PM (#15264004)
    It really doesn't matter how far the spec is, as long as the basics are there, they can do a firmware update to bring the products in line once the final spec is released. This has happened all over the place.

    That's what having firmware updates is for.
    • But couldn't a change to the standard necessitate a hardware change as well?
    • If you are utterly confident your provider will give you the update. Many of the low-end providers (dlink,linksys,airgo,etc) provide updates rarely/slowly, or that are very buggy. Be sure to put down good money for cisco or the like if you want to go down this path. Otherwise, wait for a stable product that won't require updates.
    • There are still parts of the spec that cannot be corrected with firware changes. There could still be changes that would necessitate different radios, etc. Not sure why this 'just change the firmware' post was modded to 4 'Insightful.' :( Even if it were a firmware change ask some wireless vendors who only had to change firmware to be compliant with previous standards how well that worked out. Like for example, encryption in hardware, but to be compliant they had ro release a firmware update (but then th
  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:46PM (#15264005)
    It's like how it was with LattisNet, then 10BaseT.

    Or 802.11g. Everyone's bucking for market share, to be the first ones on the block, to entice you with speed.

    -Compatibility? Who knows.
    -Backwards compatibility with 802.11b/g? Who knows.
    -Data rates that are what was advertised? Early tests say no way, not even close by b/g standards.
    -Firmware all nicely baked? Nope.
    -Non-CardBus capability? Dream on.
    -Low-power chipsets? Nightmare on.
    -Test regimens? No.
    -Test equipment? No.
    -New cellular distribution capabilities? Who knows? It's not a standard yet.
    -Requirement that it has even a modicum of internal security like WPA2? Ho ho ho....
    -Any open source motherboards? You wish.
    -Resplendent ubiquitous deployments? Not for years.
    -Faster than b/g and EV-DO (not EV-DOa)? Probably.

    Weren't we here about four years ago? Didn't anyone learn any lessons? Ok, it's about early marketshare. It can't be about anything else.

    Curse of Lomo? No, Curse of MIMO.
  • I understand that this offers more bandwidth than a traditional 10/100 wired netowork, but what about local bandwidth? With this your LAN traffic is getting broadcast over airwaves, and if enough folks in your vicinity use this won't it crowd out the frequencies and subsequently lower performance?
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:49PM (#15264040) Homepage
    0xA reasons 802.11N is not likely replace home networks any time soon.

    1) 180Mbps is the theoretical throughput if the devices are right next to each other.
    2) Even then, you STILL won't get that speed. A typical cat 5 cable and switch will give you 99.9% of the theoretical max.
    3) The latency is higher (gaming)
    4) It's harder to configure.
    5) It's less secure.
    6) It's constantly changing.
    7) It is expensive.
    8) Linux drivers are hard to find.
    9) ISPs won't support it.

    Please reply to continue the list. There has to be at least one more.
    • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:56PM (#15264106)
      #1 in my book, which you seem to have forgotten: RELIABILITY! I won't be getting rid of my cat 5 cables any time soon for this reason alone.
      • >#1 in my book, which you seem to have forgotten: RELIABILITY! I won't be getting rid of my cat 5 cables any time soon for this reason alone.

        From my experience, it is easier for a novice (not beginner) to setup a reliable wireless network, than a wired one. I had a lot more support issues, with $10 switch hooked to $10 switch, looped network connections, worn out/broken clips on the eithernet cables... (I work at a office with a lot of visitors, and laptops.)
        than I have ever gotten with, here's a USB dr
        • Last weekend, I ran a cable. It was Cat 5e, I drilled two holes in the wall with a cordless drill and crimped the cable. Now, for someone else to do this, it might cost me 100 quid, BUT, the reason I ran the cable in the first place was because of speed. I had a 54 meg connection that would roughgly give me 10 meg, moving multiple gigabytes of data at a time was not only time consuming, it was a pain in the arse.

          Sure, not everyone is doing that, especially not a normal home user who is just browsing the net
        • My current place has cat5 wired right in. I'll be moving eventually, and at the new place there is also cat5 strung throughout the apartment already. All you need to do is connect your ADSL router in the storage closet (and not even that if you go for the building-wide internet service instead of your own) and you're good to go in any room.

          If you have to pull cable yourself its a major pain and I'd recommend wireless of course, but it seems most newer buildings have networking already, and at least for desk
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You still need either a reason 0) or A)!

    • Dont' forget most wired (to the internet) homes already have a wireless G router at home and most network traffic is through the internet at 1 M/bit max. With the exception of some network printing no one needs that bandwidth at this point. If the argument was for small office computing then I would agree but the truth is there is no demand for that at home and there wont be for at leat another 2-3 years, or until everyone gets a gigabyte connection to the net.
      • Ah, but I am on Comcast with the 8 mbit plan. I maxed out our 802.11b wireless throuput awhile back (since realworld is only about half the proposed 11mbit), and had to upgrade my router to 802.11g. When I first moved here 3 years ago, I was on 384 kbps dsl. I then got comcast at 3 mbps, then 4, then 6, and now 8 mbps. I live in a 2 story apartment, so running cat5 is not an option. I have plans to setup a home media PC downstairs by my TV, and if my roommate is Bittorenting, and I want to stream a movie to
      • I regularly transmit raw audio files upwards of 100 MB between my Windows machine and my iBook. Over wireless, we're talking several minutes to transmit. Over wired: a few seconds. Sure would be nice if I could transmit those files wirelessly in a short amount of time.

        The point I'm getting at is that home networks are not always just about sharing the Internet connection. For sharing large files between local computers, 802.11g is just a pain.
    • 0xA reasons 802.11N is not likely replace home networks any time soon.

      My above remarks are taken totally out of context. 0xA

    • Unfortunately, as you only have 0x9 reasons so far, and I think many can be undermined, I don't know if you'll reach 0xA legitimately.

      1) 180MBps is indeed the limit, but achieving 100MBps to beat standard home networking won't be that hard. And frankly, I think people will take 80 MBps if they can lose the wires.
      2) I can achieve real 20MBps on my g network. They only need to quadruple that to come pretty close to what 100MBps networks can do.
      3) True. But the difference is so small compared to the interne
      • quick note: 180MBps is 8x faster than 180Mbps. Megabyte versus megabit.
        • Sorry, that was a habit typo. Hopefully it is still clear that the numbers we're comparing are 180 (wireless Mbps) vs standard ethernet at 100 (wire Mbps) but that because wireless won't deliver the full 180, which is actually faster is going to be unclear, and will depend upon the installation.
      • 9) BellSouth will. They explicitly advertise compatibility with wireless networks for their DSL service, and will help you set up common routers/switches. I imagine they're not the only one.

        Heh, I remember the old days when Ethernet routers were $150 and were just starting to become layman's items. If you asked SBC, they'd tell you routers didn't even exist and that they wouldn't work even if they did. Of course, our Linksys router worked perfect after simply plugging in all the cables. Nowadays, S
    • The one reason 802.11n is likely to replace home networks:

      The salespeople at Best Buy will push the latest 802.11n router, regardless of the customer's networking needs.
    • by lelitsch ( 31136 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:30PM (#15264931)
      Some thoughts on your ten points

      1) 180Mbps is the theoretical throughput if the devices are right next to each other.

      Probably not for the ultrageeks, but full motion DVD streams at up to 10.08 Mbps. So for most home users 180Mbps with all kinds of degradation will still allow them to run stuff at speeds where other parts (last mile,...) will be the bottleneck, not the wireless network.

      2) Even then, you STILL won't get that speed. A typical cat 5 cable and switch will give you 99.9% of the theoretical max.

      You might blow a few hundred exabyte over your network, 99.9% of people won't

      3) The latency is higher (gaming)

      If you are playing an MMOG, the latency of your home network pales against the latency outside your house, even if you hook directly into L3 networks.

      4) It's harder to configure.

      Really? That's a UI problem. I find it easier to configure my wireless than crawl back into the closet I use as a server room.

      5) It's less secure.

      But properly configured, it is more secure than most people need. And the NSA can listen to your wired network.--Which is why a lot of high security instalaltions use fibre optics.

      6) It's constantly changing.

      Oh, and wired networks aren't? God, I am old enough to remember CAT-10 10MB, 100MB, Gigabit. All of them needed new routers and occasionally new cables.

      7) It is expensive.

      How is a $29-100 WiFi router more expensive than a wired one plus a few hundred yards or cable plus ripping open the walls to put in cable conduits? You might not mind blue wires running all over the place, I certainly do.

      8) Linux drivers are hard to find.

      Ok, but that's on Linux developers. Also, 95% of to population are not running Linux on their home network.

      9) ISPs won't support it.
      What does the ISP have to do with it? They see my router--what happend after that is my business.
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:50PM (#15264048) Homepage Journal
    It'll be close. You might get enough bandwidth out of this for hidef video ... 1080p/60 prefers 135MBps to look good. Given a max of 180MBps, the likelihood that you'll deliver that kind of bit rate over any distance is not good. Lower res formats will probably be fine, but the so called 'true hi def' won't. I guess we'll all still wire up gigabit networking or wait for the next generation wireless networks for our ultra cool hi def wireless entertainment.
  • by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:51PM (#15264060) Journal
    Anyone care to recall the happy days of analogue modems and the pre-ratified 'standards': Courier HST, K56flex, X2 and all that?

    It must be difficult to take the time to ratify standards when the manufacturers are forcing themselves out of the starting gate to meet customer 'I want it now' expectations.

    Buying a 'pre-n', wifi enabled laptop with is the true mark of someone living on the bleeding edge.

  • not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thebdj ( 768618 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:51PM (#15264061) Journal
    The draft spec promises to deliver data rates up to 180 Mbps, which could make wired home networks unnecessary

    So untrue. I have the fortune of running my wired lan at gigabit speeds which is very nice and skip free while streaming and still being able to use the network for other high bandwidth operations at the same time. Not to mention the problems that will continue to haunt wireless for some time.

    "What problems?" you might ask. Well, let us start with security. While the methods and keys used to lock wireless networks continue to grow stronger, it is still easier to get onto a wireless network then it is to sneak into someone's apartment and plug into their network like you would have to do with a physical connection. There is also the interference concern. In areas of high population density, especially apartment communities, you have to start worrying about interference from nearby networks. The larger these communities are, the fewer separation between channels available to avoid the interference problems. You can also get interference from other devices on the same frequency. I have heard of varying degrees of problems with 2.8 GHz phones and wireless B/G networks.

    I do not think we are going to see an end to wired networks just yet.
    • Not to mention the problems that will continue to haunt wireless for some time.

      "What problems?" you might ask. Well, let us start with security. While the methods and keys used to lock wireless networks continue to grow stronger, it is still easier to get onto a wireless network then it is to sneak into someone's apartment and plug into their network like you would have to do with a physical connection.

      I call BS. I think you are overestimating the value of physical security, and underestimating the robustn

      • There is no overestimating the security of not being able to access a network. Presuming it's firewalled, if you can't access it, you can't intentionally do anything to it. You have to wait for them to come to you.

        Cables will always be more reliable than wireless. The question is application. If you have a box on a table, you don't need wireless. If you have a laptop that you want to move around with, than wireless makes sense.

        New homes are wired with Cat-5e and fiber-optic and they are well justified
  • I believe in Open Standards so I will wait at least until the standard is approved before buying anything new.

    Also, I've been using computer networking wireless technologies since before the 802.11 standards, starting with the old CISCO Aeronet stuff in the mid to late 1990's. I do appreciate improved throughput up to my current router's 802.11g 52 Mbps, but before I spent any more money on new wireless networking gear, I would need some assurances of improved latency, resiliency to interference or placem

  • Well, as long as I only have a 512/256 kbps net connection, why would I need anything faster than 802.11b?
    • Well, as long as I only have a 512/256 kbps net connection, why would I need anything faster than 802.11b?

      If you've got more than one computer on your LAN, and you ever communicate between them, then more speed on the LAN is good whatever the speed on your upstream link to the rest of the network. If you've just got one computer, and you use 802.11foo simply as a way to avoid running cable (maybe you've got a laptop you want to move around the house with without hassle), then the extra speed isn't much go

  • ...what are we going to do when we run out of characters in the alphabet for the 802.11* protocols? Do like the tropical storm/hurricane name-givers and move to the greek alphabet? 802.11iota?
  • Most people I know use wireless systems simply for the use of the internet. I realise that many people could use this speed for thier home network stuff, but it won't matter for a typical broadband connection. A typical broadband connection being a cable connection at 5 mbps, 802.11b more than suites the home user's needs. I have trouble seeing this as more than a petty excuse to sell more expensive hardware to an unknowing consumer.
    • At current DSL/Cable modem bandwidth, 802.11g is more than adequate. However, better technologies are coming soon.

      Here in Sacramento, Surewest has been installing very high speed fiber optic connections for years. Many parts of the city now have Surewest connections available, with internet speeds that run at 10Mbit both up and down, and they have an option for people to have a 20Mbit connection for a little bit more money.

      There is also the WiMAX standard which shows the potential to complete the final

    • My dad's a victim. He purchased wireless cards for the machines in his home, as well as a MIMO pre-n router/WAP. Several of the wireless cards didn't function in desktop machines, and his internet connection isn't nearly quick enough to worry about upgrading from our old 802.11b network. In short, he spent a couple hundred dollars, and the only machine getting a faster connection to the router is his laptop. For a net connection that I regularly saturate over 802.11b connections when I'm at home. Yay.
    • This makes the idea of a central home server for storage much more attractive. Store your vids and music centrally and use the fast network to copy or stream it to remote stations.

      It also make simple TiVO or other PVR transfers much quicker.
  • What about UWB?
    It does not intefere with 802.11g and targets a -minimum- of 100 Mbit/s at 10m and USB2 like rates within a short distance. I've read about chips that achieve 100 Mbit/s at 20m and that are already sampled.
  • The oft-maligned wireless networks are not much more insecure than their LAN counterparts. And a wireless network secured with WPA or WPA2 can be more secure than most of its wired counterparts. Few people take the time to implement things like IPsec on the wired networks, so anyone with an Ethernet cable and port can connect. Of course, it's not the same as someone squatting outside of the building, but it's still not very secure.
  • "make wired home networks unnecessary"?
    I really don't see any logic in using wireless networks for desktop PCs, which normally don't move away from their desks, and most likely can have a network cable pulled to them, cause those PCs already need electricity cables anyway. The only good use of wireless networking is imo for portable devices, like laptops or maybe even MP3 players. Yea, it would be fun if MP3 players all had built in wireless communication systems, lol. And seriously, would anyone replace a
  • This'll be great way to connect my Windows Vista box to my 1000 inch holographic display. DNF might even be out in stores around that time! /sideswipe

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