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Study: Big dogs will pave WLAN's future path

Thu, 01/23/2003 - 7:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

Although wireless LAN (WLAN) technology already is making some serious strides into the mainstream, the sector will establish its future via the support of big technology and telecom companies coupled by lower price points and standardization, a new study suggests.

Allied Business Intelligence noted that WLAN growth will continue to accelerate as companies such as Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., Dell and IBM enter the WLAN fold.

Additionally, 802.11a, its faster 802.11g cousin, and dual-band (802.11a/b) wireless protocols mark "some of the key catalysts that will accelerate the market adoption of WLAN with its higher speeds of up to 54 Mbps," says ABI Senior Analyst John Chang, author of the report "WiFi Networking Equipment: Worldwide Deployments, Drivers, Players and Forecasts for 802.11x."

In hard numbers, ABI forecasts that the WLAN industry will generate $1.67 billion in total revenue through the end of this year. Dual-band equipment, meanwhile, will make up 53 percent of aggregate WLAN equipment revenue by 2005, and the total WLAN nodes shipped will grow from 23.38 million this year to 63.97 million in 2008, ABI predicts. Among the larger companies with stakes in the WLAN market, Microsoft, for example, could steer consumers in that direction by bundling wireless home networking gear with the Xbox gaming console to support the broadband-only Xbox Live service, Chang says.

"You'll see Microsoft as a bigger play in this market without a doubt," he adds.

Although large companies will grab WLAN market share, Chang notes that they'll still find stiff competition among incumbents in the enterprise market (Cisco Systems Inc. and Symbol Technologies), and in the residential sector from firms such as Linksys, Netgear and Buffalo Technology. Buffalo, which missed the boat in the U.S. with 802.11b, is expected to make some progress in the U.S. with its 802.11g-based equipment, Chang says.

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