Top Trends 2004

Unstrung offers a concise compendium of the trends that shaped 2004: Switching Off: The long-predicted shakeout of wireless LAN startups has started in earnest (see WLAN Switch Shakeout Looms? and 802.11 Preps for Shakeout). Switch startups like AirFlow Networks and Legra Systems were among some of the high-profile flameouts, while other firms like ReefEdge Inc. are restructuring in an attempt to survive (see AirFlown?, Exit Legra, Stage Right, and Is ReefEdge Restructuring?). But it wasn't all bad for enterprise wireless LAN startups in 2004. Security software play Perfigo got picked up by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) for a tidy sum (see Cisco Picks Up Perfigo).

City Kitty: Vendors alighted on city-wide public -- and private -- networks as a most excellent application for WiMax, whenever chips and kit for the standard become available (see IBM & Proxim: MANly Friends). Indeed, some vendors currently focused on providing wireless LAN networks have started to unveil plans to integrate the two (see Tropos Unveils WiMax Strategy, LAN Dressed as MAN, Colubris's WiMax CliMax, and WiFi Goes WiMax). However, some commentators still question the real applications of WiMax in the city (see WiMax: Town & Country).

Merger Mania: 2004 was indisputably the year of U.S. cellular consolidation. Cingular Wireless's $41 billion acquisition of AT&T Wireless Services Inc. (NYSE: AWE) was swiftly followed by the $35 billion merger between Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) and Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL). (See Cingular Buys AT&T Wireless and Nextel-Sprint: Winners & Losers.) The big question for 2005 is: Will there be any more?

Need for Speed: The runaway sales of Belkin Corp's Airgo Networks Inc.-based WiFi router in this year's last few weeks show the desire for faster wireless networks is an ever-present trend in the 802.11 market. Expect to see more vendors move towards more MIMO-based systems in 2005 (see Airgo Hits Million Mark).

3G Does It: 2004 was the year where third-generation networks moved from myth to reality -- for some of us (see Review: Vodafone's 3G Data Card). This year saw a number of 3G network launches worldwide. And despite continuing complaints about high prices and slow upload speeds it appears that the technology actually works (somewhat) as promised.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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