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Switched Wi-Fi market soars

Switched wireless LAN gear is the hottest thing going, and one expert suggests it's a sign that enterprises are getting more comfortable using Wi-Fi networks.

The enterprise wireless LAN market has grown significantly this year and, in particular, switched wireless LANs have been booming. According to new research, as wireless LAN technology gains more acceptance in the enterprise, the markets for both traditional and switched wireless LANs will continue to grow at high rates.

According to a recent study by Redwood City, Calif.-based Dell'Oro Group Inc., the switched wireless LAN market grew by 125% in the second quarter in 2004. Greg Collins, senior director of wireless LAN research and the author of the study, said he expects the market for switched wireless LANs to grow 500% this year alone.

While the growth rate is impressive, Collins said part of the reason for such growth is the relatively small size of the market. Switched wireless LAN sales grew from 13 million in the first quarter in 2004 to 31 million in the second quarter.

Symbol Technologies Inc. is the leader in the switched market, and its sales of switched systems nearly quadrupled.

"Switched wireless LANs have been on the market long enough that the trial periods are ending and the technology is starting to take hold," Collins said.

The overall market for enterprise wireless LANs grew 21% over the previous quarter as well. In the second quarter, 204 million

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enterprise access points were sold.

"A lot of the classic reasons for enterprises not liking wireless LANs are in the rearview mirror," Collins said.

Security concerns have been eased by Wi-Fi protected access (WPA) and the newly ratified 802.11i. Centralized architectures have helped to tame management issues and systems are generally more accepted by businesses, Collins said.

"Last year there was a lot of focus on the vertical markets, such as health care, warehousing and education," Collins said. "Now we are seeing an uptick in the more mainstream corporate market."

Collins expects the overall enterprise wireless LAN market to grow by 30% next year. Cisco Systems Inc. remains the market leader, with 55% of the overall enterprise wireless LAN market.

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