Laptop use helps spur adoption of 802.11n

Companies are moving away from 802.11g networks

Products that support the 802.11n wireless networking standard are starting to take off, with vendors reporting acceleration in shipments, according to Infonetics Research.

"It looks like enterprise Wi-Fi products will migrate from 802.11g to 802.11n as rapidly as 802.11b products migrated to 802.11g several years ago," said Richard Webb, directing analyst at Infonetics.

The speed benefits of 802.11n are undeniable, but adoption is also helped by new laptops with integrated support for the technology, according to Webb.

Roger Hockaday, Aruba Wireless Networks' director of marketing for the Europe, Middle East and Africa, sees the same trend. "User demand is having a big impact on the use of wireless LANs. Education is, for example, moving quickly to 802.11n, because the students have laptops which support it," said Hockaday.

He also sees a change in how enterprises view wireless, which in recent years has evolved from a technology used on a small scale for guest networks to become a real part of the networking infrastructure. "Companies are therefore making more long-term buying decisions, and for that reason choosing 802.11n," said Hockaday.

The rising popularity of 802.11n is also having an effect on the overall market revenue for wireless networking vendors. Even though shipments of access points and wireless LAN switches and controllers fell during the first quarter -- compared to 2007's fourth quarter -- revenue is up because 802.11n equipment is more expensive.

But it's not all smooth sailing for 802.11n. The technology -- which won't be standardized until the middle of next year, according to Hockaday -- has also received a lot of negative press for not living up to performance expectations, which may put off some CIOs.

To get the most out of 802.11n, Hockaday recommends implementing a pure 802.11n network using 5 GHz, thereby sidestepping lower performance as a result of the presence of older, slower clients.

Cisco Systems Inc. continues to dominate the enterprise and service provider segments. But during the first quarter, Polycom Inc. managed to sneak past the networking giant and become the largest Wi-Fi phone manufacturer, counting revenue, according to Infonetics.

Worldwide wireless LAN equipment revenue was $499 million, up 1% from the previous quarter, and also marginally beating the previous high from last year's third quarter.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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