Future-Fi – The Road to 802.11-2020 and Beyond: Chapter 1
Chapter 1: Understanding the IEEE 802 Standards Development Life Cycle:
The future of Wi-Fi is so bright you’ll need an arc welder’s helmet to look directly at the new capabilities under development in the 802.11 Working Group, such as;
Possibility of up to 64 additional non-overlapping 20 MHz-wide channels in 6 GHz band (TGax)
Light Communications (Li-Fi), where any lightbulb can be an AP (TGbb)
Next generation support for up to 16 spatial streams with 320 MHz-wide channels and 4096 QAM modulation (EHT SG)
Full Duplex Tx/Rx, which can not only double data throughput speeds but also completely eliminate Adjacent Channel Interference (FD TIG)
and many more emerging possibilities
If you thought 802.11ax OFDMA was the hottest thing coming, it’s merely the next, new MAC & PHY for Wi-Fi. In this series, I’ll reveal the efforts towards our next generations of Wi-Fi as they’re being discussed within the IEEE 802.11 Working Group (WG11). But these projects and concepts are so new that there is a good chance that some of them won’t make it all the way into the 802.11 standard. Along the way there will be trials, errors, and restarts. Keep that in mind as we peek into the various 802.11 committees in progress now.
In order to be clear on the stage that each new project is at, I’ll use this first installment to provide a description of the steps needed for a new feature or improvement to proceed through the lifecycle of the 802.11 standards development path. These rules are the same for all Working Groups within the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee (LMSC) of which 802.11 is just one part.
802.11 Project Timelines website
A good way to follow the current progress of new 802.11 projects is to visit the 802.11 Project Timelines website located at: http://www.ieee802.org/11/Reports/802.11_Timelines.htm . There you’ll see at the top of the page, above the bright green row of “Published” amendments the “In-Process” Task Group (TG) committees that are currently working on new amendments to the 802.11 standard. At the time of this writing there are six projects officially underway. They’re shown in the order by which they received their PAR approval, with the most recent on top. PAR stands for Project Authorization Request and is one of the steps required by the 802 Standards Body in order to receive an official project sanction. The details of how a PAR is created are discussed later in this article. However, there are other committees at work that haven’t yet achieved their PAR approval. And some of these are very interesting and revealing, as we’ll see.
The Approval Gauntlet
In order for the work done by a TG to be included as part of the 802.11 Standard, it will proceed through a gauntlet of research, technical submissions, revisions, reviews, straw polls, letter ballots, sponsor ballots and oversight committee approvals. This process typically takes four or more years to complete from start to finish.
The flow chart below provides a visual map of this procedure, starting at the upper left with an initial “Call for Interest” and ending at the lower right with the publishing of the new amendment. The colors in the graphic are meant to provide a superficial risk status. The gray colored segments show the development stages which are the most immature and so are more susceptible to major changes or even complete termination. The yellow colored boxes should be considered cautionary but by this stage have become more likely to succeed. Those areas colored light green are relatively mature but still subject to minor revisions. The dark green box shows the finished product. In the case of WG11 this will be a standard, recommended practice, guideline, or an amendment to the 802.11 standard.
Lifecycle of a new IEEE 802 Standard or Amendment
Until the document is fully ratified its considered a draft. Once the draft is published it becomes part of the existing standard and any features contained in the amendment are available for use by all upcoming amendments. This is why, even though some amendments may not experience wide marketplace popularity on their own, some of the sub features contained within them can still contribute to the evolution of Wi-Fi as a whole.
Following the publishing of the amendment, it still needs to be “rolled-in” into the actual 802.11 document. This requires each paragraph of the new amendment to be manually interleaved into the correct position within the main document. This labor-intensive project, which is always handled by the maintenance committee (TGm), is time-consuming and detail oriented. That’s why there is usually a lag between versions of the 802.11 standard. The current version of the standard at the time of this writing in 2018 is, “IEEE 802.11-2016”. The previous version was “IEEE 802.11-2012”. And the next expected roll-in is set for 2020, although that’s still subject to change.
Starts with an Idea
But long before any of that can happen, someone has to have an idea they think would improve Wi-Fi over and above its current state. Then they need to find others who agree. Mechanisms that are available for building interest for a particular area of interest include presentations at the Wireless Next Generation (WNG) Standing Committee and a Call for Interest. A Call for Interest (CFI) may be announced by any attendee at an 802.11 WG opening plenary. Following the CFI, if there is adequate interest, a Topic Interest Group (TIG) may be formed for further discussion and research as to the viability of the new topic. The rules governing creation and operation of a TIG are as follows:
Operating rules for Topic Interest Groups (TIG)
A “topic interest group” (TIG) is a standing committee of the 802.11 Working Group that is formed to progress a specific topic.
A TIG might be used prior to a formal study group to raise awareness and understanding of a potential study group.
A TIG follows all the rules for a WG11 standing committee.
A TIG is formed by WG11 motion and dissolved as determined by the WG11 chair.
A TIG group is formed after discussion during a WG11 plenary during which the goals of the TIG are identified, and a motion to form the TIG achieves a simple majority.
Typically a TIG will exist for no more than 6 months.
Once the TIG has determined that there is sufficient interest and technical feasibility to pursue the new topic, a Study Group (SG) can be formed. The SG is really the first formal step involved with the creation of a standards amendment. “A SG is formed when sufficient interest has been identified for a particular area of study within the scope of WG11. The function of a SG is to complete a defined task with specific output and in a specific time frame. Once this task is complete, the function of the SG is complete and its charter expires”.
CSD and 5Cs
“The SG’s normal function is to draft complete Project Authorization Request (PAR) and Criteria for Standards Development (CSD) documents and to gain approval for them from the 802.11 WG.” The CSD criteria include project process requirements (“Managed Objects”) and 5 Criteria (5Cs) requirements. The 5 Criteria are as follows:
Broad Market Potential
Once the CSD and 5Cs have been fully documented, the Project Authorization Request (PAR) is forwarded to the 802.11 Working Group for approval. If approved by WG11 the PAR is forwarded to the 802 Executive Committee (EC) who then passes it through to the New Standards Committee (NesCom), the Standards Review Committee (RevCom), and then on to the Standards Board. Notice that the EC, Nescom, RevCom, and Standards Board are 802-level administrative committees, which are hierarchically above all 802 working groups including WG11.
A New TG is Born
Following the approval by the Standards Board, the PAR is approved, the Task Group letter is assigned, and the new TG begins working towards its first draft. Included as part of the PAR approval is a built-in expiration date which sets the PAR to automatically expire after a predetermined time, usually four years. This means that the Task Group must quickly get to work attracting volunteers and technical experts to focus in on the best direction to take in order to complete their objective.
“The function of the Task Group is to produce a draft standard, recommended practice, guideline, supplement, or portion of a draft standard. After the publication by the IEEE of the standard, recommended practice, or guideline, the function of the TG is complete and its charter expires”.
Plenary and Interim Meetings are In-Person
The labors of the TG and all other WG committees are performed during recurring, face-to-face plenary and interim sessions. 802.11 WG Plenary sessions host all the active committees of the WG and are conducted three times a year as part of the 802 LMSC plenary sessions. Below is a graphic showing a typical weekly schedule for an 802.11 plenary session (note: schedule is from a 2006 meeting).
Typical 802.11 WG meeting schedule for 802 Plenary session (2006-3-6/10)
Interim sessions of the WG, TGs, SGs, and SCs are held in-between 802 plenary sessions but additional Interim meetings may also be scheduled by the respective groups to the conduct business of the WG11 committees. 802.11 Interim sessions can also be held in conjunction with other working groups. The IEEE 802.11 WG Interim sessions for 2019 will also include:
IEEE 15 Working Group for Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs)
IEEE 802.18 Technical Advisory Group for Radio Regulatory (R-REG)
IEEE 802.19 Technical Advisory Group for Wireless Coexistence (COEX)
IEEE 802.21 Working Group for Media Independent Handover Interoperability (MIHI)
IEEE 802.22 Working Group for Wireless Regional Area Networks (WRAN)
In addition, occasional teleconferences are a means to prepare input for upcoming sessions. Teleconferences may not be held more frequently than twice per week.
“A draft must successfully pass a WG11 letter ballot before it can be forwarded to the 802 EC for approval for Sponsor Group voting. All letter ballots are conducted by electronic balloting. Draft standards and amendments are posted to the IEEE 802.11 WG website in the secure member’s area.” Only current Voting Members have access to this area.
“It is the responsibility of the TG to ensure that the draft is ready for balloting. There is a two-step approval process before a draft can be balloted:
Approval in TG
For initial and recirculation (once a ballot has passed with at least 75% approval) ballots, the TG approves submittal to the WG for WG Letter Ballot.
Approval in WG
Approval of the WG is required to start an 802.11 WG letter ballot, either by motion in a WG meeting or by a fifteen-day electronic ballot.”
Along with their vote, members may include comments. “The TG must respond to comments that are received during the ballot, regardless of whether the comment is associated with a vote, or from a member of the voting pool.” These comments may require a simple review and answer or they may incite modifications to the draft. The draft amendment continues to recirculate in this way until 75% of the voters approve. This step is shown in light green on the flowchart above. That signifies that at this point the draft amendment is nearly complete. Interested parties can begin to trust that this version will be close enough to the final version to begin commercial efforts. It’s recognized that while there may still be changes to the draft these can be addressed through updates.
Following approval of the Letter Ballot the document proceeds to Sponsor balloting. Sponsor balloting is open to all interested parties who hold a valid IEEE Standards Association (SA) membership and is conducted over a secure, online portal. However, sponsor balloting privileges can be revoked for non-participation. In other words, if you activate Sponsor Ballot membership, but then fail to vote within the balloting period for a particular draft, your balloting privileges can be revoked. Like the Letter Ballot, Sponsor Balloting requires a 75% approval rate in order to move forward. This step is also shown in light green on the flow chart above.
The Standard (or Amendment or Guideline or Recommended Procedure) Is Ratified
Once the draft has achieved the necessary percentage of votes and all the comments have been resolved, the document can be forwarded to RevCom for review. If approved by RevCom the draft document can be forwarded to the 802 Standards Board for final approval, which, if successful, completes the modification and review requirements. At this point the document is no longer considered a draft but a fully authorized amendment to the current 802.11 standard. Next the amendment will be published for sale, mostly to manufacturers of Wi-Fi gear, for the next six months. After that it can be downloaded for free at IEEE 802 standards for free download . You should know that there seems to be a time limit on how long the amendments are available at this location. Once they are no longer listed on the free download site, the only place I’ve found them for further download is at the live 802 meetings. So don’t delay getting your free copies as quickly as they become available.
That’s All Folks (for now…)
This article is meant to provide a basic understanding of the process that takes place within the 802 LMSC Standards Association and specifically within the 802.11 Working Group. In the upcoming installments of this series I’ll provide a detailed expose’ into the groundbreaking efforts being done by new WG11 committees such as Full Duplex TIG, and Extremely High Throughput SG. These early efforts may become part of the 802.11 standard soon enough.
In the next chapter, we’ll look at some exciting new options that are being added right now by TGax. Watch for the next article in this series entitled, “Future-Fi – 802.11ax Operations in the 6 GHz Band”.
Thanks for reading…
Following is a list of all the currently active groups within the 802.11 Working Group with brief explanations of their roles and objectives, at the time of this writing.
Directory of 802.11 WG Committees
IEEE 802.11 Working Group (WG) a.k.a WG11
Definition:The Working Group is comprised of all of the Standing Committees, Task Groups, Study Groups, and Ad-Hoc Groups. Membership is at the WG level. All WG members may participate in any of these sub-groups.
802.11 Working Group committees
Standing Committees (SC)
Definition: A committee with a determined role/task that does not modify the IEEE 802.11 standard. These committees are created by the 802.11 chair and are relatively long-lived.
AANI SC – Advanced Access Networking Interface –
The Function of this Standing Committee is to:
Coordinate and support an IMT-2020 proposal, external proposal (option B3)
To generate 802.11 Liaisons to 3GPP RAN and/or SA to allow for one or more 802.11 RAT(s) to be included in the 3GPP IMT-2020 proposal,
Coordinate 802.11 activity to enable and support a 3GPP IMT-2020 proposal and specification.
Coordinate with and support 802.1 (lead) in meeting the actions towards “IEEE “5G”specification” (option A)
Encourage review and technical analysis within the WGs
Consider a common interface with Action B3
ARC SC – Architecture Standing Committee –
The Architecture SC engages senior members of 802.11 to discover, analyze, codify and promote a common understanding of 802.11 architecture
Provides an interface point for architectural topics from other 802 groups
Advises the WG Chair regarding architecture interactions between 802.11 task groups.
Coex SC – Coexistence Standing Committee –
The Coexistence SC was formed from the PDED Ad-hoc on 2017-05-12. The scope is:
Discuss the use of packet detect (PD), energy detect (ED) or other coexistence mechanisms with the goal of promoting “fair access” to unlicensed spectrum for all
technologies including IEEE 802.11.
Promote an environment that enables IEEE 802.11ax to have “fair access” to global unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz band.
Editors – Editors SC –
The editors SC is formed from the technical editors of the WG and its subgroups.
It meets during 802.11 sessions to address editorial topics, such as style, consistency, numbering, publication processes tools. It generally meets once on Tuesday at 7:00am during a session. These meetings are open to all interested parties.
Topic Interest Groups (TIG)
Definition: A committee that gathers together interested members to work together on a specific topic. Typically this might be used before a study group to determine technical feasibility and initial requirements before deciding to request a study group. The TIG is formed by WG motion and dissolved by the WG chair. It typically lasts 6 months.
FD TIG – Full Duplex Technical Interest Group –
TIG to examine technical feasibility of full duplex operation. Approved by the WG in January 2018.
Real Time Applications – RTA TIG –
TIG to investigate latency and stability issues observed with real time applications such as mobile and multiplayer games, robotics and industrial automation, together with mechanisms to address the issues identified. Approved by the WG in July 2018.
Study Groups (SG)
Definition: A committee responsible for researching a possible future amendment. The output of the SG is usually a project authorization request (PAR). Study groups are authorized by the IEEE 802 executive committee (EC) and are expected to have a relatively short lifetime (~6 months). The SG terminates when it has submitted a PAR, or failed to gain approval for a PAR, or when the IEEE 802 EC declines to approve an SG extension.
BCS SG – enhanced Broadcast Services Study Group
TIG/SG to provide PAR & CSD for broadcast services. Approved by the WG in January 2018; EC in March 2018.
EHT SG – Extremely High Throughput Study Group –
TIG/SG to initiate discussion on new 802.11 features for bands between 1 and 7.125 GHz. TIG approved by the WG in May 2018; SG approved by WG and EC in July 2018
JTC 802 SC – Standing Committee for liaison between 802, 802.11WG and ISO Joint Technical Committee
NGV SG – Next Generation Vehicle to Everything (V2X) Study Group –
Study group to consider application of mature, existing PHY mechanisms for vehicular applications while maintaining backward compatibility with 802.11p. Approved by the WG/EC in March 2018
PAR SC – Project Authorization Request Standing Committee
WNG SC – Wireless Next Generation Standing Committee –
To provide an opportunity for all new or updated ideas to be presented for immediate 802.11 peer review. This committee acts as a clearing house for the wireless next generation of features to the plus refinements to the existing 802.11 Standard
Definition: The committee(s) that are tasked by the WG as the author(s) of the Standard or subsequent Amendments via an approved PAR
TGax – High Efficiency WLAN (HEW)
Approved March 2014 –
An amendment that supports High-efficiency wireless LAN by:
Improving spectrum efficiency and area throughput
Improving real world performance in indoor and outdoor deployments
in the presence of interfering sources, dense heterogeneous networks
in moderate to heavy user loaded APs
TGay – Next Generation 60 GHz
Approved March 2015 –
An amendment that substantially increases the data rates of 802.11 in the 60 GHz frequency band.
TGaz – Next Generation Positioning
Approved September 2015 –
Next Generation Positioning – improved accuracy, scalability and adding directionality.
TGba – Wake Up Radio
Approved December 2016 –
Wake-up Radio – low power control radio
This amendment defines a physical (PHY) layer specification and defines modifications to the medium access control (MAC) layer specification that enables operation of a wake-up radio (WUR).
The WUR is a companion radio to the primary connectivity radio and meets the same range requirement as the primary connectivity radio.
TGbb – Light Communications (a.k.a Li-Fi)
Approved December 2016
IEEE 802.11bb amendment tol provide all modes of operation of achieving minimum single-link throughput of 10 Mb/s and at least one mode of operation of achieving single-link throughput of at least 5 Gb/s, as measured at the Medium Access Control (MAC) data service access point (SAP).
IEEE 802.11bb amendment shall define operations in the wavelength bands between 380 nm and 5,000 nm.
TGm – Maintenance Standing Committee and Task Group
Approved March 2017
11 Revision md – maintenance actions and roll-in of approved amendments