WLAN Spending Picking up Steam

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is one that is rapidly taking hold in enterprises big and small. One of the key side-effects of the trend is that it is fuelling an increasing demand for wireless LAN (WLAN) technology to help enterprises deliver more mobile bandwidth.

According to the fourth quarter 2011 Wireless LAN Equipment forecast report from Infonetics research, the WLAN equipment market set a record high for revenues. Global WLAN revenues hit $893 million, which is $13 million more than the previous high set in the third quarter of 2011.

“Sales data for 2011 enterprise networking equipment are in, and the results are very clear,” Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for Enterprise Networks and Video at Infonetics Research, said in a statement. “Enterprises are racing to upgrade their infrastructure to support the wave of wireless devices hitting their networks.”

Not surprisingly, 802.11n access points (APs) represent the lion’s share of AP sales coming in at 75 percent. 802.11 however is no longer a bleeding edge standard. That title now falls to the 802.11ac gigabit WLAN standard that was just recently ratified. Infonetics expects that the 802.11ac WLANs will help to drive growth in 2015, as enterprises begin to adopt the faster technology.

In terms of vendors, Cisco leads the WLAN market with nearly 50 percent. Aruba Networks comes in second, followed by HP and Motorola. Both Cisco and Aruba have recently revamped their respective WLAN portfolios with a specific emphasis on enabling BYOD.

Earlier this week, Cisco announced enhancements to its Identity Services Engine and Prime management platform in an effort to deliver more Wireless control and security.

Aruba is tackling BYOD with a solution called ClearPass that was announced at the end of February. ClearPass provides unified access control for wired and wireless end points.

Wired vs. Wireless

WLAN though growing fast, is still a smaller market than the wired switching market. According to Infonetics, Ethernet switch sales for 2011 came in at $18.9 billion. A key driver of Ethernet switch growth is the continuing adoption of 10 gigabit Ethernet ports.

“While the bulk of expenditures still goes toward wired Ethernet switches, and will for some time to come, the growth is coming from wireless networking gear, up 24 percent in 2011, compared to flat sales for Ethernet switches,” Machowinski said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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