This amendment to the IEEE 802.11 base standard is designed to help the data communications industry address the escalating demands placed on enterprise, home and public WLANs by the rise of higher-bandwidth file transfers and next-generation multimedia applications.
“We see this as a major step forward,” said Rudie Raath, HP ProCurve networking technical consultant to EngineerIT. “Existing networks offering 54 Mbps are taking strain as the industry adds voice, video, RF tagging and other bandwidth intensive services. With IEEE 802.11n we can now offer our customers 300 Mbps and ultimately 600 Mbps.”
The IEEE 802.11 standard defines how to design interoperable WLAN equipment that provides a variety of capabilities including a wide range of data rates, quality of service, reliability, range optimisation, device link options, network management and security. More than 400 individuals from equipment and silicon suppliers, service providers, systems integrators, consultant organisations and academic institutions from more than 20 countries participated in a seven-year effort leading to IEEE 802.11n’s ratification.
The 560-page 802.11n amendment enables roll-out of significantly more scalable WLANs that deliver 10-fold-greater data rates than previously defined by the 802.11standards, while ensuring co-existence with legacy systems and security implementations.
Like previous advanced Wi-Fi standards, 802.11n will utilise multiple receivers and transmitters, a technology known as multiple-input multiple-output. This allows parallel streams of data transmissions, or spatial multiplexing. The 802.11n standard will also incorporate orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM). OFDM splits signal frequencies up into several modulated channels for increased throughput. Aside from private and commercial LANs, 802.11n is expected to support an array of personal electronics including handheld devices.
Raath sees early implementation in the educational and manufacturing sectors. In the educational sector 801.11n installations will significantly improve web searching, downloading of large files or online collaboration. This will bring the newly acquired international connectivity that Seacom is supplying to the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET), closer to the student population.
To get the full benefit, students will have to own an 802.11n-enabled notebook or a plug-in modem, both of which are currently expensive. As the system becomes more pervasive and the demand of 802.11n notebooks increases, the cost is likely to drop dramatically.
“All 802.11n networks that we are currently installing have two transmitters and are also able to offer 802.11b/g connectivity,” said Raath.
“In the manufacturing space, wireless technology is finding wide application as more and more wireless mesh networks are deployed to manage and monitor operations. For example forklifts can be equipped with RFID sensors so that instructions can be directly transmitted from the control room and the entire operation controlled wirelessly.”
The new Wi-Fi standard has opened up a new world and is already starting to challenge installations using standard LAN cabling, which cannot provide the increasing demand for bandwidth.