Wireless local area networks have been slow to mature, but 2001 could see the cutting of strings that bind employees to their cubicle caves, freeing them to move around the office untethered.
Last year was huge for wireless LAN equipment, and this year worldwide shipments will increase more than 73 percent, according to a report from IDC. Annual revenue is projected to jump from more than $1 billion in 2000 to nearly $3.2 billion by 2005.
Recent advances will be demonstrated at this weeks Networld+ Interop trade show in Las Vegas. Not only will numerous companies hawk new products in the category, but the show producers themselves will implement the technology in a mission-critical deployment.
"The challenge is were doing a very large network in a short amount of time, so we have to have faith in this, because this is all in the public eye," said Steve Wylie, director of network operations for the trade show. "We see wireless as an explosive area that we want to capitalize on more and more, not just from a content perspective, but how we deploy them."
Using hardware provided by Symbol Technologies and management software provided by Computer Associates International, the N+I wireless LAN will be implemented in several ways, the most critical of which is as a helpdesk network.
Producers will divide the show floor into several sections, where technicians will be assigned full time. In each of those sections is an "access point," the wireless LANs version of a hub, and each technician is equipped with a Microsoft Windows-based handheld device manufactured by Symbol. When a helpdesk call goes out, the technician assigned to that area will get an alert, investigate, fix the problem and file a report without ever leaving the show floor.
Agere Systems, the microelectronics unit of Lucent Technologies that was spun off this year, will have its "coming out" party at N+I, introducing new security products for wireless LANs and Universal Serial Bus client devices for accessing the wireless network.
"Weve been in this quiet period for the last six months," an Agere spokesman said. "Now well get to explain what Agere is and how it plays with all the other vendors within the wireless LAN arena."
Making its own effort to help "jump-start" the market, Cisco Systems will demonstrate its new all-in-one kit for implementing a wireless network; one Aironet 340 access device and two network interface cards cost $999.