WLANs: “Hold on to your lug nuts…it’s time for an overhaul!”

With almost half — 45% — of all networks expected to be obsolete by 2017, including an explosion in mobile devices — Wi-Fi-enabled device shipments will exceed 1.5 billion in 2012,  almost double 2010 shipments — it should come as no surprise that enterprises are planning major wireless LAN upgrades. According to the Wireless LAN Deployment Strategies: North American Enterprise Survey from Infonetics Research, enterprises are planning to increase wireless coverage and capacity to accommodate the additional traffic generated by WiFi devices; wireless access points (APs) are expected to grow up to 15% by 2014.

“The WLAN market has been on a tear in recent years, driven by the explosion of wireless devices in the enterprise,” notes Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise networks and video at Infonetics. “Our new wireless LAN study shows that there is no end in sight to this trend: almost all new devices on the network are wireless, and many organizations expect their tablet usage to surge in the coming years. In order to effectively support mobile devices, user mobility, and BYOD (bring your own device), a robust wireless infrastructure is no longer a nice to have, but a must-have.”

Other findings from the study include: more than 1/2 of studied companies allow employees to bring their own devices into the enterprise, increasing to almost 2/3 by 2014; tablets are showing up at enterprises everywhere, and are one of fastest growing device types and chief drivers of the BYOD phenomenon; and interest in next generation access points is strong, with respondents planning major upgrades of their installed APs to 802.11n and already eyeing 802.11ac APs, despite a lack of exact availability and pricing.

For last quarter (2Q12), Infonetics reported the WLAN market is now approaching the $1-billion-per-quarter mark. “The world is going wireless, and users expect fast, always-on connectivity no matter where they are,” said Machowinski. “Enterprises need to keep pace with ever-increasing bandwidth demands, and next-gen WLAN gear based on fast 802.11n and soon 802.11ac technologies gives them a reason to upgrade.”

IDC reported the combined consumer and enterprise WLAN markets were up 12.7% year-over-year, but the enterprise segment shot up 24.8% during that period for the seventh quarter in a row, for nine of the last ten quarters, with annual growth in excess of 20%. “Along with the increasing use of Wi-Fi by service providers to offload cellular data traffic, current market drivers in key enterprise verticals such as education will ensure the market for enterprise-class WLAN devices and solutions will see continued traction, and that the market is expected to stay vibrant for the foreseeable future,” said Rohit Mehra, director, Enterprise Communications Infrastructure, IDC.

According to TheInfoPro/451, wireless is the second top networking priority after core/switch upgrades, and WLANs hold down fourth place, with WAN optimization in the seventh position. The global mobile network optimization market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 22.27% between 2011-2015, said Research and Markets.

The expanding mobile network coverage to support advanced applications and the increased use of the Internet on smartphones and tablets have increased the demand for high bandwidth, according to one of the vendors surveyed. Because of the continuously increasing demand for high bandwidth, operators are struggling in providing quality of experience (QoE) to end-users. This is one of the major reasons for the increasing demand for mobile network optimization.

Image credit: chelle_1278 (flickr.com)

About the author
Steve Wexler
Steve is a proficient IT journalist, editor, publisher, and marketing communications professional. For the past two-plus decades, he has worked for the world’s leading high-technology publishers. Currently a contributor to Network Computing, Steve has served as editor and reporter for the Canadian affiliates of IDG and CMP, as well as Ziff Davis and UBM in the U.S. His strong knowledge of computers and networking technology complement his understanding of what’s important to the builders, sellers and buyers of IT products and services.