While many technology sectors are struggling, the wireless local area
network (WLAN) industry is poised for a double-digit growth, said Gartner.
Worldwide WLAN revenues will increase 26 percent in 2002 while WLAN unit shipments will grow 73 percent in 2002 with shipment totaling 26.5 million units in 2002, up from 15.5 million units the year before.
This trend will continue where revenues are projected to reach
almost US$2.8 billion in 2003, up from US$2.1 billion in 2002. Gartner
analysts said they expect the market to continue to experience healthy
growth through to 2007.
Currently, North America is the largest region for WLAN shipments as it is
projected to account for 63 percent of shipments in 2002. But other regions will begin to account for a larger portion of the overall market.
“Regulatory restrictions in Europe have delayed adoption, but this issue is
now being resolved,” said Andy Rolfe, principal analyst for Gartner’s telecommunications and networking group.
He added that there is also strong demand for mobile computing
devices in Asia-Pacific, particularly in Japan. “This will
result in the strongest WLAN growth being outside North America and
by 2007, North America is projected to account for 40 percent of shipments
while Asia-Pacific and EMEA should have approximately 30 percent of the
Asia Is Fast Catching Up
“Although WLAN was a little slower to take off in Asia Pacific, we are
seeing strong growth here and the region is catching up fast,” Robin Simpson,
Gartner’s mobile and wireless analyst, further elaborated.
“Asia Pacific shipments will rise from 3.4 million units in 2002 to six million in 2003 and 22 million units by 2007; a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50 percent. From only 1,625 hotspots in 2002, we will see Asia Pacific’s WLAN
infrastructure grow to just under 38,000 hotspots by 2007,” Simpson said.
More than 40 percent of these hotspots will be located in
cafes, 32 percent will be community based (parks, libraries and public
buildings), 10 percent in hotels, and less than 0.2 percent in airports.
“In Hong Kong for instance, the build-out of WLAN infrastructure is aimed at both business and residential users. The latest housing estate to go on sale
here has WLAN broadband service built right in and it’s being
driven by large telcos and Internet service providers,” said Simpson.
Key Drivers In Worldwide Market
“The initial strong growth in the WLAN equipment market is being
driven by the mobile data connectivity needs of professional portable PC
users,” said Rolfe.
“The increase in WLAN-enabled mobile PCs and PDAs will drive demand
for WLAN access in a variety of locations to support mobile access
to business applications. These include homes for teleworkers and ‘day
extenders’, public spaces or ‘hotspots’, and enterprise premises. As
WLAN equipment prices continue to fall and speed increases,
wireless solutions will become a viable alternative to wired LANs in small
premises. This is because bandwidth demands are lower in small sites, and
the cost of cabling for wired Ethernet is higher than in larger premises.”
Gartner forecasts the penetration of WLAN into the professional
mobile PC installed base will grow from nine percent in 2000 to almost 50
percent by the end of 2003. It is expected to surpass 90 percent by 2007.
Most WLANs are currently being purchased as an add-on PC adapter.
But, in 2002, approximately 10 percent of all mobile PCs will be shipped
with a WLAN included and this number will increase to 31 percent
in 2004. By 2007, Gartner forecasts that 68 percent of mobile PCs shipped
will include a WLAN.
“Already the top-tier mobile PC manufacturers offer portable PCs with
bundled wireless adapters,” said Rolfe. “In fact, Intel recently announced
its intention to incorporate WLAN capabilities into the forthcoming
Banias mobile platform, which will drive WLAN integration in new
Surviving The Competition
Gartner says that because the industry has a great deal of potential, many
vendors are trying to enter this market sector, with more than 70 vendors
offering WLAN equipment in 2001.
“The market is already far too crowded and we expect to see significant
failures, withdrawals and consolidation over the next two years,” said
Rolfe. “By 2005, apart from mobile PC vendors offering bundled or
integrated WLAN, we do not expect there to be more than six or
seven significant adapter vendors. There will be a larger number of
infrastructure vendors that survive, due to the greater differentiation in