2005 Wireless LAN State-of-the-Market Report
by Joanie Wexler
Published and posted April, 2005
Note that the 2006 version of this report is now available. This report remains available for archival purposes.
The Webtorials second annual Wireless LAN State-of-the-Market Report reveals that significant progress has been made in wireless deployments and wireless security advances in the past year. Webtorials surveyed its subscribers in March 2005 about their status with deploying wireless LANs (WLANs) and the applications and devices driving WLAN usage. Well over a third of this year’s 419 respondents were network managers learning to manage a business WLAN environment (as opposed to RF experts or solely home users), and over a third worked for companies with 2,000 employees or more. Their roles in WLAN implementation were fairly equally divided among decision maker, influencer, and recommender, though weighted slightly toward the role of influencer.
The 2005 Webtorials survey unveiled the following trends in the current WLAN arena:
WLAN deployments are approaching hockey-stick growth. Nearly 70% of respondents this year had already deployed business-class WLANs or were in the implementation process at the time of the survey. This figure was significantly up from just over half the respondents (53%) answering the same question last year.
A variety of WLAN architectures will persevere in enterprise deployments. Among the respondents in this survey pool, intelligent access points continue to play a strong role. More than half of the respondents said they planned to use intelligent access points with some centralized management/security capabilities. A third said they would use standalone intelligent access points, and a third said they would use a thin access point/wireless switch architecture. Another 16% intend to use mesh routing in their backbones—a fairly healthy reply, given the nascent nature of mesh today. Note that responses were not necessarily mutually exclusive; multiple architectures could be at work in a given enterprise environment.
Improved knowledge-worker productivity and accessibility through mobility still drives most business-class WLAN deployments. With 48% of respondents citing this factor as one of the two biggest drivers behind their WLAN implementation, it would appear that WLAN deployments have officially moved beyond vertical application niches and into mainstream business use. By comparison, less expensive or simpler-to-implement LAN connectivity was a healthy but distant second WLAN driver cited by 29% of survey respondents.
The state of WLAN security is a paradox. The biggest inhibitor to WLAN implementation today remains wireless security concerns. At the same time, though, most respondents said they now believe that wireless security problems have been solved with available products and technology.
Voice over Wi-Fi plans exist, but seem dependent on industry progress. Responses about deploying 802.11-based handsets and softphones were strewn among survey-takers who were already doing it, planned to be doing it after six months, and were uncertain as to their plans for wireless voice. Similar scores came in for those wishing to deploy dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi handsets. Given that the devices and applications for such deployments aren’t fully cooked yet from a standards and integration perspective, it seems natural that the interest would exist, with commitments contingent on industry support.
802.11a’s popularity remains limited. Surprisingly, not only has a low percentage of respondents implemented 802.11a to date, few have plans to deploy it. An even higher percentage specifically plans not to use the 54-Mbps technology, despite the merits of its many nonoverlapping channels.
Businesses aren’t inclined to pay a lot for Wi-Fi hot spot use. When asked what service payment model they preferred for their company’s use, more than half of the respondents said they prefer their users to either “pay by the drink” or that they allow users to only use services that are available as an amenity. A significantly smaller percentage was interested in committing to wireless service subscriptions.
Related papers and background:
About the Author:
Joanie Wexler is an independent technology analyst and editor who reports on trends and issues in the computer-networking and telecommunications industries. She authors the “Wireless in the Enterprise” newsletter for Network World Fusion and contributes frequently to industry trade publications such as Business Communications Review and Computerworld.
Acknowledgment: Please note that this paper was made possible in part due to the support of Colubris Networks.
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