Where in the World is Wi-Fi?

The answer: Everywhere. The latest report this week from Synergy Research Group of Phoenix, AZ, spells out the world-wide and specific geographic market share of 802.11 equipment based on the numbers from the end of 2002.

Aaron Vance, industry analyst at Synergy, points out the big winner in market share gains is Cisco’s jump in Europe from 29% of the market in 2001 to 43% in 2002.

“Europe has been lagging behind because of spectrum regulation issues, and as they got solved toward the later half, that helped,” says Vance. “Most vendors saw better sales in Europe. I think 2003 should be a big year for European [WLAN equipment sales].”

Another major factor helping drive growth outside of North America has been the major enterprise product players shifting their focus. Vance says that since most of the big vendors are domestic, they began only with domestic penetration. “Now that the U.S. market is going, they’re starting to target more and more channels abroad.”

No where is that more evident than in the consumer side of things in the Asia/Pacific Rim region. For a long time, the only company on the radar there was Buffalo Technolgoies — after all, it’s where they’re headquartered. In 2001 they had 80 percent of the market share. But as the North American vendors, especially D-Link and Netgear expand into Asia, Buffalo has seen its lead erode by 11 percentage points.

“Buffalo has to make some decisions on how to compete with these guys,” says Vance. “Until 2002, they were the only guy in town.” Apparently, that’s not enough these days. But Buffalo has home-field advantage and the volumes to back it up.

Smaller companies like Actiontec and SMC Networks stay in the lower tiers of sales simply because they can’t match the volume and margins by the big guys. Vance says it’s difficult for anyone, let alone a smaller company, to compete with a Linksys (number one in North America, number two in EMEA) — they shipped over one million wireless unites in the fourth quarter of 2002 alone. They do it because “their margins are very narrow, so they have to move products in that kind of volume,” says Vance.

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