Widespread Corporate Wi-Fi Imminent

By Robyn Greenspan

March 17, 2003

U.S. businesses are embracing wireless networks, and new technology will push the portable computing platform.

Wi-Fi [define] is closer to becoming a corporate reality, as Jupiter Research (a unit of this site's corporate parent) finds that more than half (57 percent) of U.S. companies already support 802.11 [define] networks. Furthermore, nearly another quarter (22 percent) plan to implement and support this technology over the coming year.

Jupiter found that small businesses — those with less than $10 million in annual revenue — are the deployment leaders, with 83 percent stating that they either support 802.11 networks today or plan to in the next 12 months. Comparatively, 71 percent of U.S. large businesses (defined as those generating $100 million or more in annual revenue) are supporting 802.11 networks or will do so in the next 12 months.

"Nearly half (49 percent) of all U.S. businesses have fewer than 20 percent of their employees connected. Small and medium sized businesses in particular are much more likely to have their employees connected via an 802.11 network," observed Jupiter Research Senior Analyst, Julie Ask.

"This demonstrates that consumer and small office/home office (SOHO) markets have really driven deployments to date. That's changing, though, as larger enterprises will drive growth later this year once security issues are resolved, which in turn presents new opportunities to vendors in this space," Ask continued.

The introduction of Intel's Centrino will allow corporations to develop pervasive computing environments with its built-in support for 802.11 wireless networking, and META Group, Inc. predicts that 95 percent of corporate notebooks will have built-in wireless capabilities by 2005.

"Most corporate laptops will move toward the Centrino platform during the next year," said Steve Kleynhans, vice president and end-user platform specialist, Infrastructure Strategies at META Group.

Meanwhile, as corporations prepare for increased mobility, Ipsos found that Wi-Fi is used by just 3 percent of American consumers in the home but greater awareness could cause an adoption surge of as much as 50 percent during 2003.

The findings, drawn from 1,008 telephone interviews during January 2003, also revealed that 41 percent of respondents are aware of the term Wi-Fi, and of these, 38 percent are at least somewhat familiar with the technology.

Further analysis from Ipsos indicates that among the respondents that are familiar with Wi-Fi, 13 percent have a Wi-Fi network at home (representing 3 percent of the general population), with an additional 14 percent of the Wi-Fi-aware respondents indicating that they were likely to purchase a Wi-Fi system in the next six months (which translates into a 50 percent increase in Wi-Fi adoption). Also, 61 percent of Americans who have a Wi-Fi system installed (or intend to install one) are using Wi-Fi to connect a PC or laptop to the Internet.

Americans Understanding of Wi-Fi
  Agree Disagree Don't Know
Wi-Fi Access Can Occur Faster than Broadband 58% 17% 25%
Wi-Fi Access Point Close to Home 27% 27% 44%
Wi-Fi Technology is Easy to Install at Home 58% 9% 33%
Wi-Fi Technology is Costly to Install at Home 44% 28% 28%
Wi-Fi Networks are Secure 37% 37% 26%
Source: Ipsos U.S. Express, Jan. 2003