LANs Poised for Tremendous Growth
Imagine responding to email messages from a hammock in your backyard,
or accessing your companyÕs Intranet from any location within your company.
These scenes may become commonplace over the next five years as wireless
LAN adoption continues its rapid expansion, growing from its solid base
of data collection applications today, to the much larger opportunities
represented by office and home applications tomorrow.
LAN industry has grown at a notable rate of between 40 and 60% per year
for the past five years and the industry revenues in 1997 exceeded $300
million. According to the market research firm InStat, the wireless LAN
market will be as large as $1.1 Billion by the year 2000.
LANs connect users within a building or local campus area using radio
signals to send data, rather than wire. The focus on local coverage is
an important distinction from the many wireless Wide Area Networking solutions
that transmit data across broad coverage regions using either cellular
or satellite technology. Wireless LANs operate under FCC rules similar
to rules for cordless telephones used in the home. Data transmission is
free, just like the voice transmission from your cordless phone to its
wireless LAN applications
In an adoption pattern typical of technology products, early adopters,
primarily in vertical markets, have discovered the benefits of wireless
LANs and implemented solutions that give them significant business advantages.
With architecture resembling the familiar architecture of a wired LAN,
and the advantage of true mobile connectivity, wireless LANs have already
become profitable mainstream technology in certain applications. Now that
the technology has proven itself in some difficult environments and the
use of notebook computers has become common, wireless LANs are appearing
in a wider variety of specialty and general-purpose applications. The
table categorizes wireless LAN applications by their current penetration
within their application segments.
of Wireless LANs
in manufacturing, warehousing, and retail have made productivity and service
gains by using hand-held terminals and portable computers to transmit
real-time information to centralized hosts for processing. Factory workers
with bar code scanners, waitresses or rental car customer representatives
with computing tablets are leveraging the benefits of mainstream wireless
LAN technology. Another accepted application of wireless LANs is to establish
network connectivity when wired networking proves costly or impossible,
such as in historic buildings or on space shuttle flights.
One of the
fastest growing applications for wireless LANs is in the health care industry.
Doctors and nurses are making increasing use of wireless LANs to have
access to complete patient information at their fingertips. Education
is another high growth segment for wireless LANs. Students at universities
are finding that wireless LANs provide them with Internet and Intranet
access across the campus.
the network is not the only reason for industry growth. Wireless LANs
also make network configuration more convenient. A wireless branch-office
LAN is more flexible than a wired LAN, and is easier to set up. A network
manager can completely configure, deploy and redeploy a wireless LAN without
ever going on site.
the same productivity benefits that wireless LAN users have discovered
in manufacturing, health care and universities are making their way to
the corporate market. With wireless connectivity to a wired network, mobile
users can pick up e-mail or connect to the company's Intranet quickly
and easily, from anywhere in the company. Small gaps of time that were
previously unproductive can be used for communicating or retrieving useful
LAN technology may even find its way to the home. Many residences now
have multiple PCs, and as higher speed Internet access becomes commonplace,
people will look for ways to connect multiple computing devices to shared
resources like the Internet. A wireless LAN is particularly appealing
when the alternative is drilling holes in the walls.
There are at least four reasons why the wireless LAN market is expected
to exceed $1 Billion by the year 2000
long awaited wireless LAN standard was recently approved by the Institute
of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE 802.11 committee,
a subgroup with the IEEE, has been working on an industry-wide, vendor-independent
standard for wireless LANs for seven years. In July 1997, IEEE 802.11
was adopted as a worldwide ISO standard. The standard assures users of
stable technology and more competitive bidding.
product prices have decreased dramatically over the past year. The reductions
are a result of competition for standards based product, the maturity
of the technology and increased product volume and have helped cost justify
wireless LANs in more applications.
wireless LAN applications are continually being adopted. Schools are evaluating
this technology for use in classrooms. Auditors and consultants are beginning
to carry wireless LAN equipped laptops to their assignments so they can
quickly setup their own networks within a clientÕs facility. Offices are
evaluating the use of wireless LANs for Internet and Intranet access for
employees requiring real-time access to information. These applications
share the benefits of improved productivity, or efficiency that comes
from providing individuals with the flexibility to move freely within
their work environment, while maintaining the ability to send or retrieve
the mobile computer paradigm is changing with more corporate and individual
reliance on mobile computing platforms. Individuals are using notebook
computers as their primary computers and handheld platforms are gaining
popularity in the workplace
of these growth factors combined with the underlying strength of the wireless
LAN industry will spur additional uses and increased purchases of wireless
LAN solutions. Cordless phones seemed like extravagant purchase until
users discovered the value of local mobility. Wireless LANs provide these
mobility benefits for data. While it is unlikely that wireless LAN devices
will become as common as cordless phones, all the indicators point toward
an industry poised for tremendous growth.
the Wireless LAN Alliance (WLANA)
WLANA is a consortium of wireless LAN vendors formed to provide ongoing
education about current applications of wireless local area networking
and the future of the industry. WLANA is committed to establishing the
wireless LAN as a key component of local area networking. To that end,
members provide a clearinghouse of information on industry-related resources,
current and emerging applications and future capabilities of wireless
LANs. You can find all of this information, along with a list of the
leading companies in the wireless LAN industry and links to their web
sites, on the Wireless LAN Alliance web site:www.wlana.com
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