802.11n Set to Enjoy Parallel Corporate and Consumer Growth

Carl Weinschenk

The disclaimer on this post is that it is based on a survey that was run Colubris Networks, a vendor that has a horse -- indeed, several -- in the 802.11n race. That being said, it raises interesting issues.


The survey asked three sets of questions. They focus on corporate plans for 802.11n, issues surrounding what the company's press release calls "alarming misconceptions" about the technology and, finally, what potential users' greatest concerns are about the technology.


The survey found that 44 percent of respondents (mostly businesses with more than 500 employees) have plans to roll out 802.11n and almost one-third will use it to replace their wired network.


Again, taking into account that this is a vendor-sponsored survey, this is good news. A technology that is just getting its sea legs is doing well if almost half of organizations are interested enough to say they plan to roll it out.


The second set of questions reveals that a significant amount of folks are not knowledgeable about 802.11n. For instance, 38 percent didn't know that the theoretical bandwidth is 300 Mbps and only 34 percent knew that the coverage is 300 feet. It is possible to see these misconceptions as a positive, though Colubris doesn't seem to. People who don't understand a technology usually sell it short. Thus, once they get the correct information, they likely will be pleasantly surprised and more likely to buy. It's up to companies such as Colubris to set them straight, of course.


The planets seem to be aligning for 802.11n. An interim certification process, aimed at dealing with the proprietary products in the marketplace, got underway in May. Indeed, consumer sophistication and the compressed nature of technology lifecycles in the modern world suggest that consumer and corporate rollouts of the technology will parallel and complement -- not follow -- each other.


This ABI Research press release reports on a study that says high-capacity demand from consumers anxious to ferry video signals around their homes and perform other bandwidth-intensive tasks will seek to replace earlier forms of 802.11 with "n." The researchers predict that 216 million chipsets will be used in consumer electronic devices by 2011.


All the commentary is not upbeat, however. Computerworld says Trapeze Networks, Meru Networks and Aruba Networks all plan to introduce enterprise products by year's end. Despite that news, the story says enterprises are likely to delay purchases until standards are set, which could be a year.


This will be interesting. On one hand, enterprises traditionally wait for standards. If this holds true, the first movers in corporate 802.11n will be small and medium-sized businesses. On the other hand, enterprises may change with the times, especially if they are confident that vendors will support their gear once standards are promulgated.


In any case, IT departments at both enterprises and SMBs should start looking at 802.11n technology, which offers unique challenges. This Digital TV Design Line story says care must be taken to ensure that these powerful networks are deployed in a way that allows them to peacefully co-exist with legacy networks. The sense is that this can be difficult.


The bottom line is that deploying 802.11n is more complex than simply buying new access points and adapters. At least now, the betting is that these deployments will begin to accelerate during the next few months.

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