WLANs Are All the Rage

Charlene OHanlon

Dell'Oro Group, the networking and telecom research firm, recently published its Five-Year Forecast Report on Wireless LANs in the service provider, enterprise and SOHO markets. Among the findings, the report states that the strongest-growing WLAN market segment over the next five years will be enterprise, which by 2014 is expected to exceed the size of the SOHO segment.

Overall, WLAN market revenues are expected to reach $5.5 billion in 2010, which would set a new revenue record for the space, according to the research firm.

The increase is due in large part to the economy, believes Loren Shalinsky, senior analyst of WLAN research. As the economy rebounds and more companies have working capital, they will migrate back to a four-year equipment refresh cycle, which will in turn spur an uptick in sales.

'The huge growth of wi-fi enabled devices, including cellular phones, e-book readers, and netbook computers, also will drive WLAN equipment growth, as consumers and businesses look for ways to connect these devices,' Shalinsky said.

The Dell'Oro report is an affirmation of the deep penetration of WLANs in all sectors, but it's also a reaffirmation of the value of technology, no matter how ubiquitous. WLANs are now such a part of the network fabric that users expect to have wireless access wherever they go, even if that means from their office to the conference room or from the train station to their office. Our increasingly officeless work force is a huge driver of that access anywhere, anytime mentality, but it doesn't really matter who or what is responsible; what's important is that enterprises understand that the WLAN no longer is a luxury, it's a requirement.

What's also a requirement is a network that can handle the traffic levels users demand. Video, large file downloads and the like will drive equipment upgrades to the latest 802.11n standard and beyond. Companies that expect their employees to be more productive will need to upgrade their wireless networks if they haven't done so within the last year. That alone could be the largest reason why the WLAN market is so big-and getting bigger.

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