Optical/IP Networks

Europe Set for WLAN Boom

Almost half of European enterprises are preparing to roll out WLAN services to employees by the end of 2004, if the latest findings from U.S.-based Strategy Analytics Inc. are to be believed.

Its report, “Western Europe IT Decision-Maker Survey: Wireless Investment Climate First Sightings,” presents the results of a survey of IT managers from 350 companies in the finance, insurance, healthcare, professional services, and manufacturing sectors.

The results show that 53 percent of companies are planning to increase spending on wireless this year, while only 10 percent are planning to cut spending.

Table 1: Change in Wireless Spending in Western Europe
Change compared to last year Percentage of survey respondents
Increase by more than 10% 17
Increase by up to 10% 36
Flat 37
Decrease by up to 10% 4
Decrease by more than 10% 6
Source: Strategy Analytics

A significant proportion of that increase in spending appears to be directed at WLAN technology: 44 percent of respondents expect to have WLANs in place by 2004, with the 'professional services sector' being a particular hot spot for growth.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is expected to continue to dominate the enterprise equipment market in 2003, following its success in 2002 (see 802.11 WLAN Shipments Double).

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) will remain "relatively minor names" in this market, according to Phil Kendall, Strategy Analytics' director of global wireless practice.

With 3G technology not even on the drawing board for most IT departments (see 3 Keeps Europe Waiting) and widespread GPRS usage remaining a distant dream in many European countries, WLAN could find itself well placed to take advantage of corporate desires to enable more flexible working practices. “WLAN infrastructure providers have got the perfect sales pitch at the moment, in terms of generating a return on investment,” says Kendall. “A less tethered workforce is going to have a big impact on any company’s bottom line.”

2003 has already seen a barrage of predictions for the success of the technology (see Euro Hotspots in Growth Spurt, WLAN Worth $1.6B in 2002, and WLAN Gear Hits $1.68B), while startups such as Aruba Networks Inc., Trapeze Networks Inc., and Vivato Inc. are all playing their hands in the WLAN switch game.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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