Not a moment too soon
As the 802.11n specifications take the long and winding road towards the creation of an industry standard, researchers and vendors are already spruking its benefits, suggesting the increased speed and throughput will finally see the corporate sector go wireless.
Networking analyst with IT research group IDC, Shing Quah, said 33 per cent of businesses had some kind of Wi-Fi network in 2005, up from 21 per cent in 2004. Quah said the added speed and throughput associated with the 802.11n standard would see wireless networking substantially improve its foothold in the corporate sector.
"There is growth in terms of wireless in the corporate sector, which will become stronger when the 802.11n standard is ratified, especially as corporations are looking at upgrading their infrastructure," she said. "A lot of the decision comes back to cost, and if with the new standard a wireless network is less expensive, easier to install and maintain and adds security to the system, then it will be an easy choice."
However, with many vendors already releasing so called pre-standard 802.11n infrastructure, resellers and consumers need to be aware that such products may ultimately be incompatible with the final standardised versions.
"The resellers need to hold out for equipment that is certified," Gartner analyst, Robin Simpson, said. "For the customers standards will make products cheaper, for the reseller standards will mean less hassles when installing wireless infrastructure, but for the vendors it will mean increased sales and increased competition which isn't necessarily all that good."
Despite a concerted effort on behalf of a series of vendors offering pre-standard products, consumers and the corporate sector alike were holding out for the fully ratified standard, Simpson said.
"Over the last year business has been buying into Wi-Fi, but they have been wary of the risks and focused on standards," he said. And while public hotspots have been a hot topic since the turn of the century, Simpson was yet to be convinced by a user-pays model for such a service.
"The public hotspot market isn't doing too well, and the new standard won't make much of a difference until someone comes up with the right business model," he said.
"The cafes that are offering hot spots are not necessarily interested in the sort of business wireless Internet access attracts. There is a lot of talk but there really aren't any other models that are working at the moment."
What resellers were left with when it comes to the 802.11n standard when ratified, was a mixture of employee-driven corporate implementations and media-rich home implementations, Simpson said.
"In many ways the uptake in the corporate sector is being driven by employees who have implemented a wireless LAN in their homes," he said. "I expect the 802.11n standard to take the same path."