802.11ac Gains Traction in the WLAN Market

Carl Weinschenk
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One of the great things for vendors in the wireless local-area network (WLAN) sector is that new iterations of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ 802.11 are frequently released. These releases lead to new rounds of buying.

The latest vendor pleaser is 802.11ac, which is in the process of being rolled out. In his post for the Telegraph, Rick Maybury offers a discussion of the advantages, which he identifies as increased speed and to a lesser extent, range. He also explains how these devices fit into current infrastructure.

No fewer than four analysts’ organizations released research touching on 802.11ac during the past several weeks. All of the work, which is from IDC, The Dell’Oro Group, ABI Research and Infonetics Research, lead to the same conclusion: 802.11ac is growing.


IDC’s report said that first quarter enterprise and consumer revenues grew by 10.3 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, according to the story at The Enterprise Networking Planet. One of the drivers of the growth is the transition from 802.11n to 802.11ac.

According to vendor numbers, Cisco stays on top but lost a bit, while Aruba remains the runner-up with a bit of growth. The regional breakdown goes like this:

Globally, there is significant diversity in WLAN growth rates. In North America, the enterprise WLAN market grew at 7.7 percent year-over-year. In contrast, the Asia-Pacific region grew at 9.9 percent year-over-year, while Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) grew by 12.1 percent year-over-year. The fastest growing region in the world, at 33.3 percent year-over-year growth, is Latin America.

The Dell’Oro report appears to look only at WLAN enterprise sales. It sees 6 percent market growth compared to the year-ago quarter. Leaders in the combined enterprise and outdoor mesh node sectors were Cisco, Aruba and Ruckus.

A quote in the release from Chris DePuy, the firm’s vice president of Wireless LAN Research, said that 802.11ac is “experiencing significant growth,” but that the totals are not enough to push the entire category more quickly than it grew previously. The release said that sales of 802.11ac equipment will be moderated by buyers’ desire to wait for the enhancements slated to arrive with a planned upgrade of 802.11ac known as “wave 2."

In early May, ABI Research released information on the status of 802.11 chipsets. Overall, 2.6 billion are expected to ship this year and 18 billion during the period from 2015 to 2019. These chipsets will be divvied up among a number of Wi-Fi protocols. 802.11ac will be firmly in the mix, according to the release:

Wi-Fi protocols will continue evolving as well. By the end of the forecast period, dual-band 802.11n/802.11ac will comprise the vast majority of chipsets shipped among all the protocols. Dual-band 802.11n/802.11ac had a strong start in 2013 by surpassing 100 million shipments in the smartphone space alone, which accounted for a sizable fraction of the total shipped that year. There will be a strong ramp of tri-band 802.11n/802.11ac/802.11ad during the next five years as well.

Finally, Infonetics looked at Wi-Fi functionality that is embedded in IP set-top boxes. 802.11ac is set to displace other versions of the 802.11 standard that are employed in this way. A survey of global service providers released last month found that the percentage of IP STBs that use 802.11ac will increase from 6 percent this year to 67 percent in 2015.



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