Tonnerre Lombard

FFII’s coordinator for Switzerland

Patents threaten 802.11n standard

According to an article on, the new 802.11n standard is threatened right after it was released – by patents. This is a rough translation:

Even though pre 802.11n products are already on the market, the coming standard is in danger. While suppliers already offer wireless equipment based on a draft of the 802.11n standard, this next
generation of Wi-Fi technology could eventually fail. The cause? Patents.

The standard that has already been under development for a long time is in danger. The long expected and promising 802.11n could eventually fail to come into existence. This despite the fact that nearly all suppliers of network equipment have already started offering 802.11n products. These Wi-Fi products are based on a first version of the coming standard.

As it turns out now an Australian organisation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has patents on 802.11n. The patent involved refer to technology for backward compatibility with the present Wi-Fi-standards 802.11g and 802.11a.

CSIRO refuses however to refrain from legal claims. The latter is a normal condition in the development of a standard by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). The 802.11n working party of the IEEE is now having an emergency meeting.

CSIRO is not willing, despite earlier requests  of the IEEE, to submit a Letter of Assurance in which it  promises not to start legal procedures against parties ratifying the coming standard. Such a declaration is a requisite and for this reason the standards organisation cannot ratify 802.11n now.  Furthermore present suppliers of 802.11n draft equipment would also commit an infringement of the law.