Draft 2.0 of the 802.11n wireless-networking standard has been approved by an IEEE working group. The move means that branded 'draft 2.0' 100+Mbit/s (megabits per second) wireless LAN products could be on sale as early as summer 2007.

Around 83 percent of working group members approved the draft, greater than the 75 percent majority required for the draft to go to the IEEE's whole membership. The draft was sent to a ballot of the 802.11n group membership, after a unanimous vote in January. The vote is the next step in a consensus that emerged a year ago, after years of wrangling.

Manufacturers of WLAN adaptors and access points can now introduce products that should require no substantive changes when the final standard is authorised. The final 802.11n standard is expected to be rubber stamped in late 2008.

The Wi-Fi Alliance last year said it was preparing an interoperability testing program for draft 2.0 equipment, which it announced last year. Alliance officials said then that testing could begin by June 2007 at the latest. The Alliance will certify and brand WLAN products as draft 2.0 compliant, before the expected completion of a final IEEE standard next year.

The heart of the new standard is a technique called MIMO (multiple input multiple output). MIMO uses multiple antennas, and multiple paths between client and access point, using reflections that would cause interference in non-MIMO equipment.

The IEEE standard originally called for a minimum of 100+Mbit/s throughput. But so-called "draft 1" or "pre-11n" products already on the market are delivering 140-160Mbit/s. With more antennas, more power and other tweaks, many vendors say they expect to achieve more than 200Mbit/s, sometimes even faster.

At the regular IEEE 802.11 plenary this week, in Orlando, one attendee was network-security guru Matthew Gast. In his blog, Gast reported that of the 325 eligible voters, 306 voted. Of that number, 231 approved the draft, 46 voted against, and 28 abstained. Four votes were invalidated. Draft 2.0 received 3,163 comments roughly evenly divided between editorial and technical comments. Those indicate that there may be some additional changes to the draft over the coming months, but they are likely to be minor.