Seven years after starting to talk about it, and six years after introducing the first draft, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) has finally ratified the 802.11n wireless local area network (WLAN) amendment to the base standard. This effectively means that the super-fast routers we've been using in our home networks and for internet access for the past couple of years are now amongst those officially recognized by the IEEE.

Publication of the 560-page 802.11n amendment, entitled "WLAN Enhancements for Higher Throughput", to the 802.11 base standard is set for mid-October. Of course, most of the big players in the router market have been selling 802.11n routers for a good while now, based on a working draft of the amendment. Doing so before the official amendment was agreed and published ran the risk of forcing consumers to pay again for another ‘official' router if the published standards differed greatly from the working draft.

Happily, most (if not all) of us who jumped in and bought a Wireless-N router should still be able to use it now that the amendment has finally been agreed, although some may have to endure the uncertainty of firmware upgrades.

Anyone who connects to the internet via a wireless router will be using one manufactured to a set of agreed standards published by the IEEE. Up until fairly recently, these routers would have been 802.11b or 802.11g compliant, or supporting both and limited to a maximum throughput of 54 megabits per second (Mbps).

This has been fine for network traffic of old but current and future demands, including the rise of media streaming and downloading and the increasingly popular uploading of high quality photographs and videos to websites, call for a faster and more robust system. 802.11n brings such advances, delivering "10-fold-greater data rates than previously defined" as well as "reliability, range optimization, device link options, network management and security".

Over 400 individuals from all corners of the industry and the globe participated in the momentous effort leading to the amendment's ratification. Announcing the news, Bruce Kraemer, Chair of the IEEE Wireless LAN Working Group said: "This was an extraordinarily wide-ranging technical challenge that required the sustained effort and concentration of a terrific variety of participants. The performance improvements achieved via IEEE 802.11n stand to transform the WLAN user experience, and ratification of the amendment sets the stage for a new wave of application innovation and creation of new market opportunities."

More information on the 802.11n amendment is available from the IEEE.