802.11n Boosts WLAN Use in Enterprises

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The popularity of 802.11n is attracting more businesses to wireless LAN equipment and helping suppliers cope with the tough economic climate, industry analysts say.

Demand for enterprise WLAN equipment in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) grew by 8 percent during the third quarter over last year, said Evelien Wiggers, research manager for European Enterprise Communications Infrastructure at IDC.

802.11n has not yet been approved as a standard, but users are becoming more confident in the technology as vendors release more products, Wiggers said.

Dell'Oro Group, another market research company, supports IDC's view. In a recent report it said strong demand for 802.11n-based access points not only lifted enterprise WLAN sales in the third quarter, but also is helping increase the size of WLAN deployments.

The combination of twice the speed, twice the distance, but less than twice the price of legacy 802.11a and g equipment is an alluring proposition for enterprises, said Ben Kwan, a wireless LAN research analyst at Dell'Oro.

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after extensive testing, will start to roll out the technology in a couple of weeks, said Glenn Jone Østebø, a technical adviser at the ministry.

He sees several advantages with 802.11n. "One of them is, of course, performance, and we also have much more coverage when using n," Østebø said.

That combination will let more people at the ministry use wireless as their primary connection to the network. Østebø saw capacities of up to 150M bps (bits per second) during tests, he said.

The ministry is using equipment from Aruba Networks, which together with Cisco Systems and 3Com performed best during the third quarter, according to Wiggers.

Meanwhile, Aruba is seeing a trend in which the deployment of wired networks is coming under greater scrutiny at some businesses.

"As budgets are being limited by organizations, people are really looking at their networks and saying, we are overbuilding and we don't actually need 100M bps to the desktop," said Roger Hockaday, director of marketing for Aruba Networks, EMEA.

The standard Fast Ethernet port is over-designed and overbuilt, and companies have too many of them, according to Hockaday. That means they may be paying too much for maintenance and upgrades, for example, he said.

"With 802.11n we can show that you can deploy a wireless network that is reliable, fast enough and absolutely secure enough. Those arguments are really starting to come together in this time of budget restraints, Hockaday said.

The improvement that 802.11n offers is in large part due to a technology called MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output), which uses multiple antennas to send and receive data.

That 802.11n has not yet been standardized is a problem for some.

"It leads to some customer insecurities," said Peter Jerhamre, a system engineer at Cisco. "But when you explain to them that vendors like Cisco, Intel, Atheros, Broadcom, Marvell and our competitors are involved in the standardization, and that it's in no one's interest to introduce anything that would result in hardware changes, then most feel safe."

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