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Demand for Wireless local area network (WLAN) technology is exploding with the latest research indicating that over 80 per cent of firms currently using wireless kit will expand their deployments in the first six months of 2004.

The biggest reason for these expansion plans is employee productivity improvements, according to the study, WLAN Adoption Trends 2004, from US market watcher Sage Research.

"In today's economic climate, companies want assurance that any new IT investments will make money now," said Joshua Weiss, project manager at Sage Research.

"Wireless LANs are fulfilling that requirement through productivity benefits, which have served not only to justify current WLAN expenditures, but to ensure that spending on this technology will expand throughout 2004."

The analyst firm reckons that WLAN technology is entering the commercial mainstream, beyond the typical early-adopters, such as IT departments and "road warrior" workers where the bulk of deployments have been to date. Usage, the study found, is now becoming more widespread in industries such as healthcare, retail, and manufacturing.

Sage notes that plans to expand WLAN infrastructures are being made in spite of lingering wireless security concerns. However, security is cited as the most significant drawback associated with wireless networking by the 159 IT professionals who responded to the survey.

The study concludes that current WLAN penetration is relatively low - 65 per cent of WLAN users report that 10 per cent or fewer of their employees use WLANs. But almost 80 per cent of those same companies plan to increase WLAN deployment over the next six months. ®

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