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WLAN enterprise growth slows after 802.11n upgrade rush

Because many enterprises have already upgraded their networks to the 802.11n standard, sales growth in the enterprise wireless LAN sector was cut in half during the second quarter, according to Infonetics Research.

Global wireless LAN (WLAN) equipment revenue increased by 14 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, compared to a jump of almost 30 percent year-on-year during the same period last year, according to Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst at Infonetics. Still, equipment for WLANs remains the fastest growing network segment, he said.

The major event this quarter was initial shipments of enterprise class access points based on 802.11ac—which is the latest standard for WLANs and promises increased speeds, network reliability and the ability to handle more users. But the impact of 802.11ac on overall sales will be minor this year because many enterprises have just upgraded to 802.11n, Machowinski said.

Wireless industry expert Roger Hockaday agreed:

“There is no burning desire to move to 802.11ac at the moment, apart for in some very specific high density environments, like a university lecture theater,” he said.

But while many large enterprises are in a holding pattern, service providers are increasing their investments. For example, shipments of access points for outdoor use grew by 22 percent year-on-year during the second quarter, propelled by service provider deployments, according to Infonetics.

The growth also comes from public indoor areas such as shopping malls, according to Hockaday. He also thinks small and medium-size companies will show a growing interest in building WLANs.

“When you talk to medium sized companies, they don’t see wireless as critical, because they haven’t seen the need yet. But I think that will change, as more laptops come without an ethernet port and the use of tablets grow,” Hockaday said.

The perennial leaders in the WLAN market—Cisco Systems and Aruba Wireless—both turned in solid performances during the second quarter and grew their share of overall revenue, according to Infonetics.

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