Wireless LANs booming for enterprises, service providers

Enterprises are getting 'carpeted' for the iPad, while service providers look at WiFi as a 3G offload option.

Two separate market-research reports, issued by different research organizations, indicate that the wireless LAN market is in the midst of a significant boom. Dell'Oro Group's Wireless LAN Quarterly Report for the second quarter of 2011 says that the amount of money spent by enterprises on wireless LAN equipment was 40 percent higher than it was for the second quarter of 2010. The report also tracks spending by service providers and small-office/home-office use environments. All three segments grew by double digits in the period reviewed, but enterprise spending growth was "exceptionally strong," Dell'Oro said.

Chris DePuy, wireless LAN research analyst with Dell'Oro, said, "Large wins drove exceptional sequential quarters for some vendors, including Motorola Solutions, up over 100 percent, and Alcatel-Lucent, up over 80 percent. This is an indiccation of how important WLAN is becoming to enterprises and service providers - that a handful of wins can register in the tens of millions of dollars for any single customer in any given quarter."

The report also discusses the growing importance of so-called carpeted enterprises, in which tablets - and the iPad in particular - are changing the wireless LAN dynamic.

The other recently issued report, In-Stat's WiFi Hotspots: The Mobile Operator's 3G Offload Alternative, projects that hotspot use will reach 120 billion connects by the year 2015. In recent years, the report says, hotspot market growth has been driven by wireless and broadband providers embracing WiFi as a competitive differentiator and an enhancement to core services. In-Stat senior analyst Amy Cravens said, "The hotspot market is in a continuous state of flux. Now over a decade old, the market is still undergoing significant changes in usage and business models. WiFi hotspots have become a service used to attract customers to other product offerings, rather than a standalone offering. Whether the product is broadband, mobile service or a cup of coffee, WiFi is being layered on top of core offerings as a competitive differentiator."

The report reaches a number of conclusions, including that hotspots will continue to be a key factor in mobile operators' data offload strategy; that transportation and convention centers account for a small percentage of hotspot venues but for almost 30 percent of total connects; and that notebooks continue to account for the majority of connects but the rate of smartphone and tablet access is rapidly increasing.

You may also be interested in this article: WiFi offloading, cell-phone battery drain, and dual-band access.

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