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Where enterprise-class WLANs remain shaky

May 26, 20042 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWi-Fi

* IDC notes areas for WLAN improvements

IDC analyst Abner Germanow summarized the progress of the enterprise wireless LAN market at the recent NetWorld+Interop show in Las Vegas. The last newsletter spelled out the good news he had to report. Revealed here will be the not-so-great news for the enterprise market.

* Enterprise growth seriously lags consumer/SOHO growth.

Shipments of enterprise-class access points were about 750,000 in 2003, for example, while nearly 10 million “value-class” APs shipped during the same period, according to IDC. And while enterprise-class AP shipments might break the 2 million mark by 2005, IDC expects value-class AP shipments in 2005 to reach about 23 million.

Note: One important reason value-class devices do so well is that consumers tend not to concern themselves with security (unfortunately). But while the last newsletter noted that wireless security progress is the reason that enterprise-class WLAN deployments are picking up, the flip side is that a survey of 130 enterprises conducted by IDC in March revealed that being “worried about security” was also the No. 1 factor for enterprise that have not installed WLANs.

 * WLANs are a “nice-to-have,” not a “must-have.”

Germanow pointed out that business justifications are increasing within enterprises for installing WLANs. However, WLANs are not a no-brainer, he said.

Though WLANs might indeed be required in a particular vertical application within an enterprise, they are still not necessarily essential throughout the entire company. Businesses already have high-speed LANs that run well and have been lovingly (and expensively) honed. And WLANs add complexity, increase IT costs and force security investments.

Meanwhile, the competitive advantage is unclear: you can still get a certain degree of mobility from wireless services.

In fact, 38% of IDC’s March survey respondents said they have not installed WLANs because there is “no need/no real reason” or “no business value” associated with doing so. These concerns ranked second only to the security anxieties mentioned.

And, finally, what of voice on WLANs? 

Germanow said he sees 2004 as a year of “Wi-Fi voice hype but little revenue.” He said “2007 and beyond” will find “Wi-Fi voice and indoor mobile [cellular] in a grudge match.”