Waiting for Wireless-N

By Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

Stop us if you've heard this before, but word from the organizing body in charge of wireless standards suggests the latest in Wi-Fi technology, dubbed Wireless-N, is set to be approved in September.

What's that you say? You have been using a Wireless-N router on your laptop since 2006? Well, yes and no.

The IEEE first developed a set of standards — designated 802.11 — for Wi-Fi equipment in 1997. Each upgrade of the standard carries a letter of designation. Back in 2006 most laptops computers used wireless routers designated 802.11b or 802.11g, which have a typical data rate of about 6.5 megabits per second and 25 megabits per second respectively.

In 2006, versions of Wireless-N routers — capable of handling data at speeds up to ten times faster than Wireless-G — started to appear, although these routers were based on an early draft version.

And in 2007, technology heavy hitters like Intel and Apple also got tired of waiting for the final draft and announced they were coming out with their own Wireless-N tech.

It was expected the IEEE would put the official stamp on Wireless-N in 2007, but here we are in 2009 and only now is the organization talking about a potential announcement, according to PC Magazine. (Hat tip: DSL reports)

So what will this mean if you bought a Draft-N router? Will you need to upgrade? Unlikely, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that tests how different technologies operate with each other and has certified 653 products as Draft-N interoperable.

While some routers may need to upgrade their firmware, it sounds like the final version of Wireless-N will be a lot like the draft versions.

It's not clear why the IEEE — which has been working on this standard since 2004 — has taken so long to produce a final set of standards. Is it some weird conservation of time law, as in "The faster the technology, the slower the process?"

Whatever the reason, don't hold your breath that Wireless-N willl be replaced anytime soon. At least not by a certified product.