It's Alive: 802.11 Switches On

The nascent wireless LAN switch market has kicked into life in the last three months, with number crunchers Infonetics Research Inc. estimating total vendor revenues of $12 million during this year's third quarter.

Port shipments numbered 23,000 -- a quarter-on-quarter growth of 95 percent -- as several vendors marked the period as their first quarter of real action.

Forecasts for future business also look bright. Richard Webb, directing analyst for wireless LANs at Infonetics, expects to see significant growth in the next few years. “We forecast healthy quarterly revenue and port growth in the double-digit percentages through 2004, and annual revenue and port growth in the double- to triple-digit percentages through 2006, at which time worldwide revenue for wireless LAN switches will reach $169 million.

“2003 is really the marketing year for these guys, and 2004 has got to be the sales year. Next year we are really going to see some units shifted. Comparatively, it is very small at the moment.”

Webb is keen to add that this figure could be greater if the glut of startups and traditional wired players invading this space can target the potentially lucrative, larger enterprise market (see Enterprise WLAN to Hit 80%). “If vendors can get into the larger enterprises we will really see this market take off, and this figure will be much larger. That would really grow the market.”

Despite some analysts' belief that only one or two of the herd of switch startups will survive to become viable independent businesses, Webb believes that these latest figures validate the number of players battling for customer attention (see WLAN Switch Shakeout Looms?). “It wouldn’t surprise me to see a few go, but it won’t be a huge fallout. There is a reasonably big pie for these guys to share. The three amigos in particular -- Aruba, Airespace, and Trapeze -- have a very good take on the market and are there in good time.”

For those of you who played truant at tech school, a wireless LAN switch is a device that sits in the wiring closet, between the management console and the wireless access points set up around the office. The switch is connected to the access points via Ethernet cabling and handles tasks like deciding how much of the available bandwidth will be allocated to each user and which users should be allowed on the network, as well as implementing security features like data encryption.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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