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Dell'Oro Predicts $1 Billion 802.11n Market Next Year

Written by Robert Poe
Wednesday, 25 January 2006

The market for 802.11n equipment will reach $1 billion in 2007, according to a new report by the Dell'Oro Group market research firm.

The IEEE confirmed the draft version of the so-called next-generation Wi-Fi standard last week. But formal ratification could take another year or more. And that will in turn shape the development of the market.

The initial market for 802.11n will be the home, Dell'Oro believes. The report, Reaching a Crescendo: The IP PBX Market, projects that 90 percent of consumer wireless LANs will be based on 802.11n by 2009.

Consumers will find the new generation of Wi-Fi attractive for several reasons, according to Greg Collins, the firm's senior director of wireless LAN research. One is that even when used just as Wi-Fi mainly is today, for connecting computers via a WLAN, it provides more consistent coverage, with fewer spots where connections drop off.

It also provides superior connections for carrying wireless VoIP. While the standard doesn't specifically differentiate between classes of service, physical-layer connectivity is robust enough to significantly improve the performance of jitter- and delay-sensitive voice applications, Collins says. (See R-Value: Assessing a VoWLAN Network.) Voice over WLANs, however, won't initially be a major application driving the market, he adds.

Similarly, the new technology has enough bandwidth to accommodate applications such as wireless in-home entertainment distribution, which will force broadband Internet links to share the airwaves with high volumes of real-time, and also delay-intolerant, video packets.

Such applications, too, are some ways off, and will to some extent pit 802.11n against other emerging technologies such as ultra-wideband (UWB) and multimedia over coaxial cable (MoCA). (See Siemens Joins Multimedia Over Coax Alliance.)

Despite its attractions, though, enterprises will hold off on significant deployment of 802.11n for a while, according to Collins.

They too have good reasons. One is simply that they can't afford to risk buying large amounts of gear that isn't guaranteed to be compatible with the finalized standard. Consumers, by contrast, only have to worry about the compatibility of a few inexpensive wireless routers and network interface cards, perhaps from the same vendor.

Another reason is that enterprises won't have any real need for the technology for some time. "They may buy it for protection, but I think the big cutover won't come until there's a solid base of 802.11n in notebooks," says Collins. "There's really no need to upgrade their infrastructure until then."

Computer makers are in fact eager to start building 802.11n-capable notebooks, Collins claims. But proliferation of such computers will take long enough that enterprises won't start widespread adoption of 802.11n until 2009, he predicts.