The news and rumors surrounding attempts to establish an industry standard for the 802.11n Wi-Fi format paint a picture that changes with the viewing angle. The eagerly-awaited enhancement of the 802.11 wireless LAN standard, that promises wireless users throughput of 100 Mbps and more, has been bogged down in a two-camp battle over the shape of the specifications to be submitted for IEEE approval.

That much is not news. But according to a new market review from ABI Research, the prospects for an agreed draft, which optimists had touted for as early as this month after encouraging IEEE announcements in July, are not looking good. “It was hoped that by now the two industry groups, WWiSE and TGn Sync, would have thrashed out a single proposal,” says Philip Solis, senior analyst, who covers Wi-Fi semiconductors for ABI Research’s Wi-Fi Research Service. “But we hear that four major companies — Broadcom, Intel, Atheros and Marvel, holding the lion’s share of the Wi-Fi chipset market — have formed a third camp with the aim of writing a whole new proposal.” In light of this development, ratification of a standard could be delayed until mid-2007, at the earliest.

Cynical observers have called this an offensive gambit aimed at Airgo Networks, the small but energetic chipmaker that has rapidly been gaining ground in the consumer market. Senior analyst Sam Lucero, author of the Wi-Fi Research Service’s equipment coverage, adds, “That interpretation may have some merit. If these companies, which have been slower bringing spatial multiplexing to market, can change the standard proposal drastically, Airgo would be forced to a fundamental redesign.” ABI Research’s Wi-Fi Research Service provides an overview of emerging Wi-Fi opportunities and the technology’s future co-existence with cellular technologies and consumer electronics.

It analyzes Wi-Fi semiconductor markets, Wi-Fi access points, adapters and switches, and explores the spread of Wi-Fi public hotspots.