Although there's an obvious downturn in technology sales worldwide, one market sector seems to be going from strength to strength. According to a recent Gartner Dataquest survey, the wireless local area network (WLAN) industry should grow 73 per cent during 2002, and continue to grow at a steady rate over the next five years.
Analysts expect shipments of WLAN technology to increase from 15.5 million units this year to 26.5 million in 2003, and reach a global revenue of $US2.8 billion over the same period.
The fast growth is being fuelled by the rapid take-up of wireless-capable PCs and palmtops, which in turn is creating opportunities for wireless connectivity in a variety of arenas. WLANs are expected to increase the ease of telecommuting, offer public access in so-called "hotspots" and assist in the wiring of large enterprise spaces. As prices drop, so too will WLANs invade small businesses and the home.
The findings were released just as Microsoft took its first steps into the WLAN arena, releasing five new consumer products for wireless networks at a recent tradeshow in the US.
The growth analysis also comes on the heels of an announcement from the Federal Government exempting wireless carriers from the $10,000 application fee and from other regulatory obligations. The legislation puts wi-fi carriers on the same footing as Internet cafes.
"The Government recognises that wireless technologies offer significant benefits for consumers," Senator Richard Alston said last week, "with the potential to become a significant alternative to broadband-access technology in Australia."