Corporate wireless market set to explode

Ongoing standards disputes aside, companies large and small are going to create wireless local area networks (LANs) over the next year or two, pushing that industry segment into high gear, panelists at Spring Comdex said here yesterday.

Wireless technologies, standards and issues are being highlighted during conference sessions at the trade show, which continues through Thursday. The overall theme is that the wireless LAN market, now about 10 years old, is finally going to take off in the coming months. Of course, vendors are making the predictions, but as a panel moderator pointed out, this is the first time that such discussions have been rife with optimism.

Although there is agreement that corporations will increasingly turn to wireless LANs as an option for both mobile users and those in the office, there is plenty of room for argument about which standard -- or standards -- will emerge as the victor and whether home-networking aficionados will propel the corporate market or vice versa.

"It is possible that we'll see the home drive the applications for wireless LAN, and not the enterprise," said Mark Bosse vice president of marketing for RadioLAN, a Sunnyvale, California-based vendor. "That's probably the first time this has happened."

Home networking fans want faster access for Internet gaming, video-on-demand, audio and digital video disk sharing, he said.

Other panelists said, however, that they believe strong corporate demand will serve to push wireless prices lower so that home users can more easily afford the technology. For both market segments, wireless is becoming increasingly viable because prices are dropping and because systems managers and homeowners alike have no desire to put holes in walls for wiring or to have wires running all over the place.

"We believe that the next year or two years are watershed years in wireless computing," said Jeff Abramowitz, marketing manager for the wireless connectivity division at 3Com in Santa Clara, California.

Those years will bring a five-fold increase in bandwidth throughput for higher access speeds and a two-fold drop in product prices, Abramowitz predicted.

The result, panelists agreed, will be more productive mobile workers, offices freer of wires and homeowners who can network their homes without major hassles and renovations.

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