Experts warn of 'bumpy' transition to 802.11n


But Wi-Fi firms up and running with IEE 802.11n draft kit.

The transition from existing IEEE 802.11b/g Wi-Fi to the next-gen 802.11n standard will be "bumpy" and difficult, industry experts warned today.

Analyst firm In-Stat expects the transition to 802.11n to be more difficult than from 802.11b to 802.11g.

"The second quarter is typically a slow quarter, and it will be interesting to see how vendors position draft 802.11n products within their traditional third-quarter back-to-school and holiday promotions," said In-Stat analyst Victoria Fodale.

Although the IEEE 802.11n wireless Lan standard is probably a year away from formal ratification, wireless networking firms are "off and running" with a fast-growing number of products based on draft 1.0 of the emerging standard.

Approximately 300,000 draft 802.11n routers, clients and access points have already shipped from home and small-business networking firms such as Linksys, D-Link, Netgear, Buffalo and Belkin, according to In-Stat.

"Buyers of these products are early adopters willing to pay two to three times the price of standard 802.11g products," said Fodale.

On the 802.11n chipset side, draft 802.11n chipsets from Atheros, Broadcom and Marvell are powering draft 802.11n end products.

Additionally, Intel is set to release its Kedron 802.11n wireless module within its Santa Rosa mobile platform in early 2007, even though the standard will not be ratified by that time.

Consequently, there is "much pressure" on Task Group N within the IEEE 802.11 Working Group to come up with a more solid standard to put PC OEMs more at ease with the thought of embedding draft 802.11n solutions into mobile PCs.

"Although we expect draft 802.11n/802.11n chipsets to be only 3.6 per cent of total wireless Lan chipset shipments for 2006, In-Stat expects this to grow to almost 20 per cent in 2007," said In-Stat senior analyst Gemma Tedesco.

"Although 802.11g will remain strong in some segments, such as in portable consumer electronics devices, over the next three to four years, 802.11n is the future and eventually all product segments will shift to this standard."

Recent research by In-Stat found that the ratio of draft 802.11n wireless routers to clients is practically one to one, as users realise they must purchase both products to capitalise on the full coverage and throughput potential.

Pre-802.11n products such as Netgear's MIMO G have experienced healthy growth over the quarter.

These products have benefited from the positive press around performance, and typically have average selling prices 30 to 40 per cent lower than those of draft 802.11n products.

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Experts warn of 'bumpy' transition to 802.11n
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