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Wireless LAN sales are rocketing, with shipments expected to grow 73 per cent this year. Even though prices are falling, revenue will grow 26 per cent this year, according to Gartner Dataquest.

The industry will continue this consistent growth in 2003, as worldwide wireless LAN shipments total 26.5 million units, up from 15.5 million units in 2002. Gartner forecasts revenue will hit almost $2.8bn in 2003, up from $2.1bn in 2002, with continued growth expected through to 2007.

Initially the growth in WLANs was driven by the mobile data needs of professional laptop and PC users, but as equipment prices continue to fall and speed increases, wireless solutions will become a viable alternative to
wired LANs in small premises. There's also a growing market for equipment in WLAN hotspots, for telecommuters and more generally in the home.

Gartner forecasts the penetration rate of WLAN into the professional mobile PC installed base will grow from 9 per cent in 2000 to almost 50 per cent by the end of 2003.

Most WLAN cards are currently being purchased as an add-on PC adapter. But in 2002 approximately 10 percent of all mobile PCs will ship with a bundled WLAN card, and it will increase to 31 per cent in 2004.

"Already the top-tier mobile PC manufacturers offer portable PCs with bundled wireless adapters," says Andy Rolfe, principal analyst for Gartner Dataquest's
worldwide telecommunications and networking group.

Intel's intention to incorporate wireless LAN capabilities into the forthcoming Banias mobile platform will spur still more widespread wireless LAN integration in new mobile PCs, he reckons.

By 2007, 68 per cent of mobile PCs shipped will include a wireless LAN capability, according to Gartner.

Because the industry has a great deal of potential, many vendors are trying to enter this market. In 2001, there were more than 70 vendors offering WLAN equipment.

This is far too crowded, so an shakeout is on the cards. The result will see only six or seven significant adapter vendors left by 2005, Gartner Dataquest predicts.

North America is the largest region for WLAN shipments, accounting for 63 per cent of shipments in 2002. But interest in Asia, particularly Japan, and Europe (where regulatory issue are being overcome) means these regions will be increasingly important to sales over the next five years. ®

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