Stalled corporate wireless market about 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 said at spring Comdex.

Wireless technologies, standards and issues were highlighted during conference sessions at spring Comdex, held last month in Chicago. 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 Comdex Show panel moderator pointed out, this is the first time that such discussions have been rife with overwhelming 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."

Fans of the home-networking paradigm want faster access for Internet gaming, video-on-demand, and audio and digital video disk sharing, he said.

Other panelists at Comdex 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 of these market segments, wireless is becoming increasingly viable, because prices are dropping and because information 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.

Those years are expected to bring a five-fold increase in bandwidth, throughput for higher access speeds, and a two-fold drop in product prices, according to Abramowitz's predictions.

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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