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Poll: WLAN Has Limited Life

The majority of enterprises already have wireless LAN equipment active in their workplaces -- whether they realize it or not! -- while little more than 10 percent are set to never adopt the technology, according to the results of an Unstrung poll (see What's the Future for WLAN in the Enterprise?).

The survey focused on some of the key issues facing enterprise users today, as does our new poll, Wireless Data: How Much Will You Pay? And, while it seems 802.11 technology of one sort or another is set to become ubiquitous in the enterprise sector, its reign as the king of corporate wireless might only last about five years or so, if our respondents have clear crystal balls. Of those who voted in the WLAN survey, 36 percent said their IT department had already installed a WLAN in their offices, while 19 percent are using the technology without the knowledge of the central technology department (but they'll come snooping now!). Another 34 percent expect to see it within their workplace in the near future, while just 12 percent believe it will never be used by their employer. More than half believe 802.11 will be the predominant wireless networking technology in the enterprise for another five years, as long as the standard is continually boosted. A progressive 13 percent thought WLAN kit will be usurped as the favored wireless enterprise technology by ultrawideband equipment within a couple of years. However, a meaty 34 percent believe 'WLAN is the new Token Ring,' and that it has at least 10 years at the top. Back to 2002, though, and it is no surprise to find that the biggest single issue regarding corporate WLAN implementation is good old security. It scores with 73 percent of respondents, while roaming is regarded as the most important issue by 15 percent. Data transfer speed is the most important issue for 13 percent of folk. While security may be the leading issue, the main benefit of the technology is its ability to allow hot-desking, according to 57 percent of respondents, while 27 percent think its major advantage is that you are no longer in danger of tripping over Ethernet cables. And while a cynical 5 percent see 802.11's perceived security problems as the key benefit -- voting for "I can hack into the corporate email system with ease" -- 11 percent think its most important feature is that it's easy for visitors to get onto the corporate network. Accessing that network will depend on having the right technology in your end-user device, of course. Trying to log on to an 802.11a network when your network interface card is 802.11b-based will frustrate in the extreme. So, which 802.11 standard (a, b, or the still to be ratified g) will be most widely adopted in the enterprise? Well, the most popular answer, given by 44 percent, is that a combination of all will be used, while 37 percent think the current favorite, 802.11b, will continue to be the most widely deployed. Only 13 percent think that high-speed 802.11a will be taken on most, and only 6 percent have high hopes for 802.11g, which offers 802.11a speeds (more than 50 Mbit/s) across 2.4 GHz, the frequency used by 802.11b kit. No great surprise on the response to our regional question. A solid 58 percent believe North America will lead WLAN adoption, while 27 percent think Asia/Pacific will drive uptake, and just 15 percent say Europe is where it's at for enterprise 802.11. But enough of the corporate users themselves – what about the integrators they will deal with to have WLAN installed? We asked where the revenue will come from for these essential firms, and 51 percent of those who voted believe that services and support will be the WLAN integrator's main source of income. Hardware was the choice for 38 percent of respondents, while just 12 percent think software sales will be holding up the bottom line. And we couldn't have a WLAN poll without asking about the influence of some of the IT industry's biggest names. Of our respondents, 43 percent feel it is essential for the development of 802.11 technology to have the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) on board, while another 24 percent feel it is fairly important that they are involved. But there's always the alternative view, and while 16 percent think its OK that these high-tech behemoths are muscling in on the 802.11 scene, a healthy 17 percent voted for the following response: "Bah, there was plenty of startups getting along just fine before they showed up." That's the spirit! So don't forget to visit our Wireless Polls section to vote in our latest survey of opinions. And while you are there, check out all the results noted above, as well as the votes cast in our IPV6 survey (see Poll Shows Divisions Over IPv6). — Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com
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