RealTime IT News

Home Wireless LANs Flying High

The surprising uptake of wireless home networking gear by end-users helped push the in-home networking equipment market up 97 percent in total sales in 2000, to end the year at $290 million, according to Cahners In-Stat Group.

"Wireless was the story of 2000 for the home networking industry. Both 802.11b and Home RF-based networking hardware saw brisk sales growth quarter to quarter, with the fourth quarter of 2000 showing very impressive growth numbers," said Mike Wolf, director of enterprise and residential communications at In-Stat. "Our research has shown that wireless is very intuitive to end-users, in that they embrace the benefits of wireless networking for such applications as broadband Internet sharing."

Both the wireless and phoneline network markets saw fierce competition among the different market participants in 2000. Agere Systems (formerly part of Lucent) saw its ORiNOCO wireless LAN product garner nearly 37 percent of annual wireless home networking end-use sales. Proxim totaled 25 percent of total wireless home networking revenues in 2000 on its lower-priced Symphony product line. Intel dominated the phoneline home networking space with 53 percent of all connections.

"While the wireless and phoneline have been the primary focus among the different media transport layers for home networking the past couple of years, many continue to underestimate the continued strength of good old Ethernet," Wolf said. "Because of its familiarity, field-tested reliability and low cost, Ethernet continues to see strong uptake in homes as consumers move to install low-cost PC to PC networks."

According to the Cahners report "Are We Connected Yet?: 2000 Home Network Market Shares and 2001 Preview," the home networking market will continue to see strong growth as:

  • Vendors release second-generation products and wireless networking products continue to drop in price
  • Consumers beyond the early adopters adopt broadband and begin to see the benefits of home connectivity
  • Consumer ISPs such as AOL and Earthlink push new home network strategies
  • Windows XP for Consumers (which is focused on networking connectivity and broadband) is released in Q4 2001 and drives a new PC sales cycle.
According to Strategy Analytics, the market for Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) will top $2.5 billion by 2006. An increasing number of businesses are choosing wireless solutions, seeing them as valuable tools with which to achieve ultimate productivity.

"Wireless LANs offer businesses flexibility on a scale that is just not possible with wired alternatives," said Sara Harris, senior industry analyst in the Strategy Analytics Global Wireless Practice. "Costs are coming down, speeds are going up and the performance gap between wireless and hard-wired LANs is narrowing significantly."

The adoption of wireless offices will be driven by the needs of company users rather than by company size. Harris identifies "road warriors" as those who need the most mobility, with "desk pilots" needing the least. "The size of the business will be less important than user profiles within it," she said.