Cheap 802.11n could be the mantra going forward

Interest in the enterprise 802.11n market is certainly heating up. This week alone we saw Ruckus Wireless take a deeper plunge in the market with a self-configurable 802.11n package and Broadcom, a top player in the consumer 802.11n market, announced a new enterprise solution (see story No. 3). Other enterprise vendors are coming to market with new offerings.  

But could harder economic times hinder the growth of this market? Aruba has already been hit, Goldman Sachs recently noted. The enterprise WiFi vendor fell short of expectations for the second fiscal quarter. "In addition to U.S. weakness, the company is also seeing weakness in Europe, particularly northern countries such as the U.K.," the firm wrote. "While U.S. enterprise weakness is not a major surprise, weakness in European enterprise suggests that macro issues could weigh on the company longer than originally expected."

802.11n is not a straight sell for many enterprises, except those verticals that are seeing huge capacity demands. While the technology offers better throughput and capacity, an enterprise has to weigh those benefits in light of the fact that upgrading to the better technology isn't simply a matter of replacing existing WiFi access points with 802.11n access points. It often requires a complete overhaul of the network, meaning new end-user clients, upgraded switches and controller equipment, as well as gigabit Ethernet rewiring in most cases to handle the additional data throughput.

Most vendors acknowledge that 802.11n deployments won't be Greenfield deployments but add-ons or strategic replacements in high traffic areas. How it will be deployed will depend much on the budgets of enterprises.

That's obviously why Ruckus Wireless is so aggressive with its message that its SmartMesh product enables enterprises to deploy WiFi networks in half the time and half the cost to get three times the performance of typical WLANs. Broadcom says its single-chip solution consumes half of the power of competing 802.11n chipsets, reducing the cost of deploying or upgrading enterprise networks.

I suspect cheap 802.11n will be the mantra going forward as vendors work to convince the enterprise that 802.11n is worth their investments.--Lynnette