Is Europes Enterprise Wireless Coming Back?

At the London Enterprise Wireless Technology Conference, captains of wireless industry said the technology is primed to leap hurdles that have hobbled it in Europe.

LONDON—The CEO calls his MIS team in and says he wants a wireless LAN at work: "Look, I have wireless networking at home. I installed it myself. How hard can it be?"

"How hard could it be?"—words that IT admin people hate to hear because normally, its not as easy as it looks. Especially when it comes to installing wireless.

Theres been an early dawn on the "second day" of the wireless LAN-installation industry. There was a hiccup, of course. Here in Europe, the figures show that the market has been more stable—a stability paid for by being at the expense of being slower. In the American market, there was a lot more enthusiasm at first, and bigger doldrums after that initial exuberance.

For the past year, the market has been consumer-led—but that situation may be changing faster than even its partisans might have predicted. At Octobers London Enterprise Wireless Technology conference and exhibition, Wi-Fi Alliance Chairman Dennis Eatons second-day keynote speech compared the growth of the WLAN business to the early days of the PC and expressed surprise at the rapid recovery of enterprise wireless. "We didnt expect the enterprise market to pick up till next year," Eaton told me. "I really didnt think there would be the budget for new spending by IT management, but the last quarter saw real growth in enterprise WLAN; and this one is showing even more. Roughly, weve seen 30 percent and now over 60 percent growth."

The business buyers are back. You might have missed it by the second day of this show because there really werent that many visitors—but you can put that down to the security scare over the visit of President Bush, which pretty much locked the center of the city up. The first day, everybody agreed, was pretty crowded—certainly better than last years event.

As with the PC market, said Eaton, the enterprise has lagged behind individual initiative. "With the PC, we had the old Data Processing world saying that they wouldnt allow personal computers, and people just bought their own. The same thing has happened with wireless."

Next page: Hurdles to European wireless.>