The continued growth in sales of smartphones and tablets-and their increasing use in businesses-is fueling the rapid expansion of the wireless LAN market, according to several reports released in recent days.
In the most recent report released Sept. 6, Canalys analysts said the WLAN space-which includes access points and controllers-grew to $575 million in revenue in the second quarter, with 1.6 million units shipped. The revenue represented a 35 percent increase over the same period last year, when the market was worth $561 million, according to Canalys.
The rising demand for better WLAN environments is benefiting market leader Cisco Systems, according to various analyst firms, but also helping growing rivals, such as Aruba Networks, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, all of which saw their second-quarter revenue jump.
The pervasive demand for WiFi connectivity-driven by the proliferation of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets-was the key reason for the growth, and enterprises will continue to see such technology push its way into the corporate world, according to Canalys analyst Alex Smith. Building WLAN environments that can handle the explosive growth of consumer mobile devices in the workplace is a key consideration for businesses going forward.
"Without a suitable wireless LAN strategy, a business will soon find its existing networking deployments overwhelmed," Smith said in a statement. "There is a lot of hype around the cloud, but the first step in taking advantage of shared resources is ensuring that the maximum number of users and devices can access them."
Canalys analysts said that tablet shipments worldwide will grow from 45 million units in 2011 to more than 113 million in 2015, with smartphone shipments jumping from 455 million units this year to 864 million in four years.
Also driving the healthy growth in the WLAN market was the migration to the 802.11n standard, which Canalys said supports a higher density of devices and is fueling a strong refresh cycle in existing WLAN environments.
Canalys' numbers echo those from research firms Dell'Oro Group and IDC, both of which recently said that enterprises dealing with the influx of consumer mobile devices into their environments are driving the growth in the WLAN market.
IDC analysts Sept. 1 said that in the second quarter, WLAN revenue grew 29.7 percent over the same period in 2010, jumping to $1.52 billion, with the enterprise WLAN segment growing 43.4 percent to almost $725 million in that interval.
"Enterprise mobility has emerged as one of the key priorities for CIOs and IT managers across all geographies, and the growth of WLAN market revenue during the second quarter is a clear testament to that market dynamic," Rohit Mehra, director of IDC's Enterprise Communications Infrastructure unit, said in a statement. "The tremendous momentum behind smart mobile devices and their continued uptake in the enterprise for business and vertical-specific applications are driving enterprises to move forward with upgrades and extensions of their wireless networks."
Dell'Oro reported Aug. 30 that WLAN revenue in the second quarter grew 24 percent, with enterprise WLAN revenue increasing 40 percent. All three segments-enterprise, service providers, and small and home offices (SOHO)-saw double-digit growth over the second quarter of 2010, the firm said.
"Large wins drove exceptional sequential quarters for some vendors, including Motorola Solutions, up over 100 [percent] and Alcatel-Lucent, up over 80 [percent]," Chris DePuy, an analyst covering wireless LAN research at Dell'Oro Group. "This is an indication of how important WLAN is becoming to enterprises and service providers-that a handful of wins can register in the tens of millions of dollars for any single customer in any given quarter."
Dell'Oro analysts also talked about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, in which workers are bringing their own devices-such as smartphones and tablets-into the enterprise and expecting to gain access to the corporate network. It's the BYOD trend and the skyrocketing popularity of Apple's iPad that is generating a lot of revenue growth for WLAN vendors. The same can be seen in the SOHO segment, which is helping out such vendors as Netgear, Cisco and D-Link, Dell'Oro said.
Regarding enterprise WLAN vendors, IDC said that Cisco's revenue grew 36.2 percent in the quarter, but that its market share dropped to just over 50 percent. Other vendors, including Aruba, HP and Motorola Solutions, also saw strong revenue growth, ranging from 52.7 percent to 65.8 percent.
Canalys had similar numbers, listing Meru Networks as the fifth-largest WLAN vendor. Cisco remained on top, the firm said, with its market share increasing slightly from 53.4 percent in the second quarter of 2010 to 53.7 percent this year. Aruba had 14.6 percent of the market, with HP-leveraging its acquisitions of 3Com and Colubris Networks-grabbing 7.8 percent market share.
"As consumers boost both public cloud investment and mobile device adoption in the enterprise, the real winners will be wireless LAN vendors capable of steering government and business organizations to the right networking environments," Canalys' Smith said. "Before there was the cloud, there were wireless LANs, and they are still hugely important today."