Show me the money
As ratification draws closer, resellers would do well to look to vendors that are also keeping a close eye on potential markets for this technology. With potential markets in mind, lead systems engineer for networking vendor Juniper, Greg Bunt, is keeping a watchful eye on the comings and goings of the IEEE working group.
"We are talking about an evolutionary technology," he said. "We started at 11Mbps with 802.11b grew through 54Mbps with 802.11g and now we're looking at 100Mbps with 802.11n."
Far more than a gimmick, Bunt claimed the increased speed will see wireless grow substantially, not only in the corporate sector, but also in the small business space, where shifting offices is common and fixed costs are closely monitored.
"When you are talking about small firms, of less than 10 people, you have to be really flexible about your input costs," he said. "The 802.11n standard will make it cheaper to set up a wireless local network, for businesses that change office frequently."
While costs will strengthen the position of wireless networking amongst smaller companies, Bunt said the new standard would also prove a boon for the upper end of town.
"Certain sectors such as manufacturing and distribution have already bought into wireless networking, however there is still a lot of opportunities for growth in the banking and finance arenas, as well as in the health sector," he said.
Not only will the faster transfer speeds enable more data intensive applications to be used over a wireless corporate network, the improved quality of service should also allow for voice over wireless internet protocols to become a reality, business development manager for Intel in Australia, Sean Casey, said.
In a horses-for-courses approach, Casey claimed resellers would do well to focus on applications, emphasising the quality of service aspect of 802.11n to sell into the corporate sector, and its capacity to service media-rich services such as video streaming in the home sector.
"We are already looking at office environments where 70 per cent of notebooks are wirelessly enabled," he said. "Once you add VoIP into the mix, and you can just pick up your notebook and take it home then, for the first time, you have a truly mobile office."
IDC's Quah also pointed to the improved quality of service promised by 802.11n.
She suggested this might feed in well to the growth of VoIP in the corporate sector.
"We will see wireless networks grow into the retail, manufacturing, health and government sectors early on," Quah said. "For the first time, we will see wireless networks capable of carrying voice applications, and this will be an area of significant growth."
Currently, the home market has been buying into wireless technology more enthusiastically than its corporate counterpart, and some believe 802.11n will turn the tables on this market.
"In the corporate sector the interest up until now has been in the 802.11a and 802.11g protocols because they are faster than 802.11b," Intel's Casey said. "But up until now 802.11b has been more than enough in the home."
In a similar vein, managing director of networking vendor Netgear, Ian McLean, warned 100Mbps was probably overkill for a home network which generally feeds into an Internet connection of only 512Kbps. Nonetheless, the 802.11n standard may finally provide a cogent reason for uptake in the corporate sector, he said.
"The hold up in the corporate sector is that most companies have already invested significantly in a wired network, and they are not about to throw out that out for something new unless it's also faster and more reliable," McLean said.
However, the uptake of wireless networking in the home market would lead to growth in corporate wireless networking, he said.
"It's a generational thing as well," Mclean said. "Kids that grow up with laptops at home and then in school, will simply expect to have them in their working environment as well."