Industry hopes for the ratification of an 802.11n standard this year may be damaged by an apparent effort by large chipmakers to offer a third proposal for the standard, according to an ABI Research report released this week.

Two industry groups, WwiSE and TGn Sync, have battled over the specifications to the standards of 802.11n, which promises to provide data rates in excess of 100 MB/s. Encouraging news from IEEE in July indicated that the two groups were close to developing a consensus proposal that would receive the 75% vote necessary to be approved as a standard.

“Technically, their proposals were pretty similar, and they were working through the details,” said Philip Solis is an ABI Research’s senior analyst who covers Wi-Fi semiconductors. “They were expected to present a combined proposal” at the next IEEE standards meeting. Such a timetable likely would have led to a ratified 802.11n standard, and commercial products being available by the end of 2006, he said.

However, four major chipmakers—Broadcom, Intel, Atheros and Marvell—supposedly have joined forces with the notion of submitting a new 802.11n standards proposal, Solis said. An alternative proposal from this powerful group could delay the ratification of a standard until at least mid-2007, he said.

“Not much is known about what is going on right now,” Solis said. “They’re keep it pretty close to the vest.”

One reason the four chipmakers may be pursuing an alternative proposal is to fend off Airgo Networks, a relatively small company that has gained traction in the market quickly, according to the ABI Research report.

“That interpretation may have some merit,” said ABI Research senior analyst Sam Lucero in a prepared statement. “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.”