Who Makes What: Mobile Infrastructure
Our survey of wireless infrastructure includes 802.11 hardware (access points, switches/controllers, and bridges), WiFi security boxes, voice-over-Wireless LAN hardware, RFID products, location tools, and enterprise-focused wireless mesh and broadband products.
While these separate strands of mobile enterprise hardware used to nicely fit into distinct categories, like so much else in the wireless world, these categories have since evolved and become much more fluid as vendors tend more and more to incorporate features such as VOIP support into their mainstream enterprise product lines.
At the same time, other categories -- WiFi security, for instance -- have emerged as distinct entities in their own right, since the market was shaken by the initial lack of security offered by enterprise 802.11 devices.
The wireless mesh and broadband categories may be seen as stretching the boundaries of "enterprise wireless networking" slightly. It's undeniable that the main business of mesh networking at present is in the municipal, public access space. Vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), however, are pushing mesh for some enterprise applications. As we revisit this report in the months to come it will become clearer how much credence to give these claims.
Meanwhile, you only need to look at an operator like Towerstream Corp. (Nasdaq: TWER) to see that there is a definite market for dedicated broadband links for enterprises -- even if Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and friends generally talk up WiMax as a consumer play.
Here's how the categories break down, with defining characteristics for each:
- Standalone local area access points that can connect multiple clients
- Controllers -- or switches -- that manage a farm of stripped-down APs
- Range-boosted WiFi radios that can provide links between different offices on a large campus
- Beefed-up quality of service capabilities
- Fast handoff between APs
- Links into the corporate PBX
- Improved encryption and authentication capabilities
- Wireless "Sniffing"
- Blocking and checking new devices on the network
- Increased amounts of data on the asset tag itself
- Readers, including barcode scanners
- Multiple radio types
- Triangulates signals using GPS, WiFi or other radio transmissions
- Can be assisted via cellular networks
- New technologies allow detection indoors and outside
- Dedicated access points -- or "nodes" -- require far fewer physical connections back to a wired network
- Multi-radio systems for access and backhaul
- Backhaul may soon incorporate wireless broadband radios
- Fixed wireless links incorporate FSO and/or WiMax for metropolitan area high-speed links
- Forthcoming 802.16e standard enables transfer at vehicular speeds
- CPE equipment is becoming available but WiMax PC cards are still rare