What to expect in an 802.11n WLAN implementation

Find out what changes you'll need to make when 802.11n fully enters the market.

Reader question: When is 802.11n going to be in the market officially? Is it currently used in the business? What changes can we expect when 802.11n is implemented?

Drafts of the IEEE 802.11n High Throughput amendment to the 802.11 Wireless LAN standard have already been implemented by many products, including well over 200 devices certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Most early implementations were "pre-n" products targeted to consumers for home WLANs. Performance varied a lot, especially when pairing products from different vendors. However, today there are many business-grade products that implement Draft 2.0 of the 802.11n standard. Not only is Draft 2.0 technically mature, but it is backed by Wi-Fi Alliance testing to promote multi-vendor interoperability.

Some businesses are comfortable deploying products based on Draft 2.0, because they assume that changes made to the final standard will be minor and implemented as firmware rather than hardware upgrades. Other businesses prefer to wait for the 802.11n standard to be ratified. The right answer for you depends on your aversion to risk, how badly you need new 802.11n capabilities, and your organisation's timeline for deployment. The IEEE task group working on 802.11n plans to circulate Draft 4.0 for ballot this month (March 2008). Working group approval is expected by July, with formal ratification by December. For "TGn" status updates, see the IEEE 802.11 website.

Products that 802.11n have better speed, distance, sensitivity, and reliability than older 802.11a/b/g products. To learn more about 802.11n, how it accomplishes those improvements, and how they will affect WLAN design and deployment, check out my recent webcast on building high-performance WLANs.

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