It is no secret that the wireless LAN industry has made a huge mess so far of the opportunity that is known as 802.11n. This standard, which holds the promise of application level, i.e. real, wireless throughput of over 100 Mbps has had a rough birthing so far. It has survived a contentious IEEE proposal process, which took a detour to be “helped” by an industry consortium that managed to hammer out an uneasy peace between warring camps.
The cease-fire agreement included the “Draft 1.0” of the standard that allowed manufacturers of consumer WLAN gear to spawn the current crop of “draft 802.11n” products. These half-baked, rushed-to-market products are buggy and interfere with legacy 802.11b/g WLANs. They also, with the rare exception, fail to crack the magic 100 Mbps mark under best-case conditions and mostly lack the gigabit Ethernet switches that should go hand-in-hand with products that prominently display speeds in the hundreds of Mbps on their product boxes.
As a result, this motley band of products has been met with near-universal disapproval by reviewers and analysts. And even consumers seem to have gotten the message causing disappointing sales that have driven manufacturers to rethink their strategies. So manufacturers have been spinning the bad reviews, retrenching and plotting new strategies to get sales moving on these high-profile products that are sucking up their marketing budgets.
Which brings us to yesterday’s surprising announcement by the Wi-Fi Alliance that it will certify draft 802.11n products.