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IDC assesses wireless ‘LANdscape’

May 24, 20042 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork Security

* Analyst shares insights on WLAN pros, cons

During the recent NetWorld+Interop show in Las Vegas, IDC analyst Abner Germanow presented his second annual wireless LAN market assessment at a breakfast sponsored by the market research company. As usual, there’s good news, and there’s bad news.

First, the good news:

* The business case for WLANs is maturing, according to a survey of 130 enterprises conducted by IDC in March.

Businesses are beginning to justify WLANs for conference-room network access so that they can collaborate more effectively and improve the productivity of meetings. Guest-network access is also becoming a biggee, particularly for consultants.  Finally, WLANs are finding a home as replacements for wired networks, most notably in temporary and small offices.

* The worldwide market is growing. 

Shipments of enterprise-class access points grew from about 500,000 in 2002 to 750,000 in 2003. They are expected to reach about 1.3 million in 2004 and 2.1 million in 2005, says IDC.

* Advances in wireless security are driving network spending.

In IDC’s March survey, which asked a question about what would motivate enterprises to upgrade their WLANs, gaining “higher security” was the top reason. This motivator earned an average ranking of 3.34 (respondents ranked reasons on a scale of 1 – 5, with 5 being highest).

The second most popular reason was “more access bandwidth” (2.96), followed by “new data applications” (2.84) and “increased number of users” (2.82).  The least motivating upgrade factor was “voice/streaming media apps” (2.08).

Evidence of the advances in wireless security as a WLAN market driver include the fact that the formal security extension to the 802.11 standard, 802.11i, is on schedule for approval next month, with compliant products to follow, noted Germanow. Meantime, partially compliant Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) products, which fix the static encryption security holes in Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), of course, have been shipping for many months. And the ability to monitor the airwaves for unauthorized nodes is available from most systems vendors (as well as third parties).

Next time: The bad news about enterprise WLANs.