Carrier WiFi

2004 WLAN Almanac

Analysts are predicting that a greater emphasis on centralized network management, smart antennas, and the less interference-prone 802.11a standard will all be part of the corporate wireless LANscape in 2004.

Piggy-in-the-middle: Wireless LAN switches -- boxes that sit in the corporate operations center or wiring closet and control a network of dedicated access points -- were the Great White Hope of enterprise wireless LAN in 2003. So, it's no surprise that analysts are expecting this market to grow in 2004.

"The market is starting to look a bit more positive in terms of companies really looking to make a fuller adoption of wireless LAN next year," says Meta Group Inc. analyst Chris Kozup. He is looking to a greater takeup of centralized wireless LAN architectures by corporations, particularly in the second half of next year.

Users will start to get more involved in using such systems to control management functions, such as asset tracking and controlling access to applications, Kozup reckons, rather than just using such kit to improve network security.

"2004 will be the year where we really discover management," he predicts. "2003 was the year of security."

Finding MIMO: Craig Mathias, a principal with analyst and consulting firm Farpoint Group believes that introduction of so-called "smart antenna" chipsets that increase the range and data transfer rates of wireless LAN access points by using multiple radio signal (called multiple input, multiple output -- or MIMO -- in the trade) will mean a significant change in the industry (see Smart Antennas Draw a Crowd for more on this technology).

Such technology could mean that corporations can buy fewer access points to provide coverage in their offices. "MIMO technology is probably the most significant introduction of 2003 and ultimately will have a major impact on the market," opines Mathias.

A is for non-interference: The Farpoint Fella is also still carrying a torch for the 802.11a standard (54 Mbit/s over 5GHz) even though 802.11g (54 Mbit/s over 2.4MHz) is driving sales at the moment (see Dell'Oro: 802.11g Looking Good). Mathias thinks that enterprise users will need to move to the clearer skies used for a radio communications as the 2.4GHz band gets more clogged with users touting b (11 Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) and g kit.

The smart money is still on a, Mathias says, because the interference and interoperability problems with b and g will eventually make the standards too flakey for enterprise users (see Interop Woes Smite 802.11g for more).

"The fundamental conflict between b and g is just there," says Mathias. "It is never going to go away." — Dan a to z Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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