One of the Wi-Fi industry’s most closely watched stalemates received a new twist. Faced with a deadlock between two competing groups and proposals for the shape of an 802.11n protocol standard, TGn Sync and WWiSE agreed to build a combined proposal that would forge a compromise between the two industry associations. However, the working group had not yet devised a specification for the combined proposal, when news reached the market that four major companies — Broadcom, Intel, Atheros and Marvell, holding the lion’s share of the Wi-Fi market — had formed a third camp with the aim of writing a whole new proposal. It is now known that the breakaway group consists not of four companies, but 27, calling themselves the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC). The EWC has now released its specifications for 802.11n, saying, “by introducing a specification with widespread industry support, the EWC hopes to speed ratification of an 802.11n standard, while enabling an ecosystem of high performance WLAN products built to a common set of guidelines. This widely accepted specification will benefit consumers by, among other things, ensuring the interoperability of next-generation wireless products across a variety of brands and platforms.” While appearing to preempt the IEEE working group’s efforts, the EWC said that some of its members, many of whom belong to TGn Sync or WWiSE, “will continue to work within the IEEE Task Group ‘N’ to facilitate a ratified 802.11n standard.” What does it mean for the industry and for consumers? ABI Research senior analyst Philip Solis says, “This announcement means that companies can start building EWC-compliant Wi-Fi chipsets and products immediately, with EWC-compliant probably reaching the market by the fourth quarter of 2006. The result will be MIMO Wi-Fi products that are more than just interoperable with existing Wi-Fi products; EWC-compliant products will have the full benefits of increased range and throughput with other EWC-compliant products. Whether or not the EWC specification will form the basis of an eventual IEEE 802.11n protocol remains to be seen, but if so, that would mean availability of ‘pre-802.11n’ systems sooner than might have been expected.”