Home and Enterprise WLAN Sales Grow

By Eric Griffith

May 21, 2004

No surprises here: the first quarter of 2004 brought only good news to the WLAN industry and most of its vendors.

It's time for the regular, quarterly look at the sales and market share of the vendors that supply the world's wireless LAN equipment.

Overall, there's not much in the way of bad news.

Meaning that things haven't changed much: WLAN equipment sales continue to grow.

"We're seeing growth driven by infrastructure devices, access points and the like... at both the high end and the low end" says Aaron Vance, senior analyst at Synergy Research Group , the firm that tracks the stats on these companies based on surveys with the vendors, publicly reported revenue results, and other factors.

Without even tracking embedded Wi-Fi like Centrino chips in laptops (yet), there's significant growth over this time last year (up 33%) and from the last quarter (up 8%).

This is especially good news for the enterprise sector of the WLAN business, which took a slight downturn in the final quarter of 2003 --though there was overall growth for WLANs in general that quarter. Enterprise equipment sales are back up 7% now for Q1, the highest sales quarter ever.

Leaders of the pack are unchanged, with Cisco, Symbol, 3Com, and Proxim headlining the top four. (None of them saw the highest growth, however; HP's sales of WLAN products went up 48% from Q4 2003.)

Synergy only recently began tracking the vendors of enterprise WLAN switches and controllers. As a whole, they still retain a very small piece of the pie, but Vance says he's interested to see who's getting traction.

"Airespace had good numbers, and Symbol continues to do very well, especially in vertical markets... It's going to be interesting to watch, given Cisco's recent SWAN announcement."

The top sellers in the home and SOHO category of WLAN products are unchanged, with Linksys, D-Link, Netgear, and Buffalo Technology retaining the same order. Last year in Q4, Linksys was outselling Cisco, its parent company, though they've again switched roles. It probably doesn't bother Cisco at all, either way.

The recent news of Microsoft stepping out of the SOHO product market -- the company was generally known as the number 5 or 6 player, despite not reporting sales or revenue to groups like Synergy-- will be "good news for the home guys," says Vance. "It's a huge brand they don't have to compete with."

He admits that in the home/SOHO market, there's nothing very notable at the moment. Pricing stays competitive, sales of 802.11g products continue to grow (as in enterprise), and he expects the nascent media adapter products will further spur things as the general public becomes more aware of them.

The future might hold some changes for the home side of the market, as Wi-Fi makes its way into consumer electronics (CE) from companies like Philips and Sony, and as companies like Linksys and D-Link turn their networking expertise toward products in the CE world. But only time and the numbers will tell.



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