Wi-Fi market expected to grow 23 per cent

Fuelled by increasingly cheap and reliable 802.11b technology, the worldwide wireless LAN (WLAN) market grew tremendously in 2002, according to a report by high-tech market research firm, In-Stat/MDR, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In its report entitled It’s Cheap and it Works: Wi-Fi brings Wireless Networking to the Masses, In-Stat/MDR indicated that total market revenues are expected to have increased 23 per cent from US$1.8 billion to US$2.2 billion between 2001 and 2002. While In-Stat/MDR has received numbers from the first, second and third quarters of 2002, data from the fourth quarter are still rolling in so only predictions can be made at this time, said Gemma Paulo, senior analyst, enterprise and residential networking at In-Stat/MDR.

Shipments of WLAN gear to business are expected to have increased 65 per cent in 2002 to 11.6 million units, and shipments to the home are expected to have increased 160 per cent to 6.8 million units, she said.

The year also saw the trickling in of some pre-standard 802.11g products and an influx of new hardware such as 802.11a network interface cards (NICs) and access point (APs) and dual-mode 2.4/5GHz capable NICs and APs.

“Basically we’re seeing a lot of pre-standard [802.11]g going in to the homes this year and a lot of dual-band equipment especially for the business because there’s this idea that they can use the [802.11]b now and eventually upgrade to [802.11]a,” Paulo said.

While the high-end WLAN equipment market continued to be dominated by vertical markets, an increasing number of smaller businesses started to invest in lower-end gear.

In fact, driving the small business and home office (SOHO) market were retail sales and online purchases of low-end router/AP devices and NICs. In-Stat said in its report that retail outlets and Web retailers aggressively provided rebates on their WLAN equipment.

“A certain times in a quarter they (retailers) might have a lot of equipment and might be trying to get rid of it,” Paulo said, adding that these deals might have inspired home users to purchase more WLAN equipment, generating more of an interest in the technology.

And in the workplace the number of 802.11b-enabled laptops increased as shown by the increased sales of network interface cards to businesses from two per cent in 2001 to 14 per cent in 2002.

For more information visit www.instat.com.

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