Predictions for the New Year

In 2004 it's not just new Wi-Fi deployments to look forward to: the majority of current WLANs will be expanding to further improve productivity.

In 2004 it's not just new Wi-Fi deployments to look forward to: the majority of current WLANs will be expanding.

That's the word from Sage Research of Natick, Mass. Its new report, "WLAN Adoption Trends 2004" says that 80 percent of existing WLAN users will be expanding their networks in the first half of the year to be more productive. Security is no longer an issue for these folks, though it is listed as the most common drawback.

Maybe it should be. One company -- admittedly, a developer of security software, named Bluefire Security Technologies -- says that this year will bring a "Wireless Code Red." That's in reference to the notorious Code Red worm of a couple years ago. Bluefire thinks a wireless network version will be arriving within the year.

"I can't say whether there will be a significant event like that this year," says Joshua Weiss, the project manager for the report from Sage. He believes there are issues that the people they talked to -- the report is based on interviews done in October with 159 IT pros -- are concerned about, but a wireless worm wasn't one of them.

"You have to keep up with the latest standards and protocols" to stay safe, he says.

Other predictions Sage makes are for a number of high-profile cases of confidential information leaking out because of theft or loss via a WLAN.

Late in 2003, three men were arrested for stealing information in such a way by accessing a Wi-Fi network at a Lowe's Home Improvement store.

Sage Research says the average WLAN in health care is being installed for $9,000, in retail for $11,000 and in manufacturing for $13,000.

While these verticals were represented enough for Sage to draw conclusions in its report, Weiss adds that "horizontally across them is the consistent theme of supporting mobile workers and people offsite with hotspots."

Despite this planned growth of current WLANs, Sage says that only 10 percent of network users on 65 percent of WLANs even use the Wi-Fi. But of them, 70 percent of those using the untethered connection are satisfied by what they've got (and how many people said that in the early days of Ethernet?), even though they think reliability and speed could be improved. Thus the use of semi-proprietary speed-boosts by chip vendors will likely continue unabated.

In addition to WLANs, look for major growth spurts for fixed wireless. In-Stat/MDR said today that the emergence of standards like WiMax (802.16) and 802.20 means the market will go from $558.7 million last year to $1.2 billion by 2007. The Third World will benefit from WiMax deployments in a big way, because of the voice support it will bring to areas without cellular phones.






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