Enterprise Wi-Fi Moves Into the Spotlight
While hotspots were the rising stars in 2003, corporate Wi-Fi
applications are bound to grab the spotlight in 2004, creating opportunities for
channel partners to sell equipment, professional services and bandwidth to power
The take-off in the WLAN market has been driven largely by productivity gains
and cost savings over Ethernet installations, attractive aspects for enterprises
and SMBs looking to cut costs. At the same time, technology enhancements have
made Wi-Fi a truly viable option for secure networking.
Were starting to see a switch where wireless really grew up and had a
strong growth on the consumer side and home networking, and small businesses,
explains Proxim Corp.s Ken Haase, director of product marketing. Were seeing
a definite trend where the corporate growth is greater than consumer growth,
because I think enterprises have finally recognized the fact that wireless
networks are secure, in some cases more so than what they already have in place,
and youll see more of a benefit with the use of wireless, beyond just being
able to read your e-mail real-time.
DellOro Group forecasts the WLAN market will grow 23 percent to $2.2 billion
this year, continue to grow in 2005 and will peak in 2006. While other segments
such as residential may slow down, the enterprise market for WLANs is expected
to maintain a five-year compound annual growth rate of more than 20 percent, to
reach $1 billion in 2008, DellOro says. In the coming years, the enterprise
wireless LAN market will increasingly thrive as enterprises continue to embrace
WLAN technology for its convenience and as a means to improve productivity,
says Greg Collins, senior director at the analyst firm.
Enterprises, particularly in vertical markets, can reap almost 27 percent
more productivity by using Wi-Fi access to the network, according to a November
2003 study from Cisco Systems Inc. Sage Research Inc. reports that 80 percent of
WLAN users surveyed expect to expand their deployment of wireless LANs in the
first six months of 2004 for productivity gains.
WLANs offer several other advantages for a business, such as rapid adds,
moves and changes within the enterprise environment, since it allows on-the-fly
setup and simple self-configuration. Guest access is another attractive area,
since Wi-Fi allows company visitors to get online without hassle and without
having to wait for an IT manager to do the setup. Another popular application is
hoteling, which refers to the ability of telecommuting workers to open their
laptops at home or at the office, and be on the same network regardless.
Small, medium and large organizations are planning to run a wide variety of
applications over their wireless LANs, including network connectivity for
guests, in-building mobile telephony and video over IP, confirms Infonetics
Research in an October 2003 study. The firm forecasts worldwide end-user
spending on WLAN products to grow 97 percent between 2003 and 2007, from $1.49
billion to $2.94 billion.
Our study shows that organizations do not lack imagination in terms of the
future uses for wireless LANs, nor underestimate its potential to deliver
advanced applications such as voice or video over IP. However, security remains
the most significant barrier to adoption for wireless LANs. The industry still
has work to do to address enterprises lingering perception of wireless LANs as
insecure, says Richard Webb, Infonetics Researchs directing analyst for
Proxims Haase says this concern is abating. This time last year, everyone
was still engrossed in security concerns, whether they were real or perceived.
Now, new security appliances and the adoption of the Wi-Fi Protected Access
standard have made WLANs as secure as their wired counterparts, he adds.
Opportunities for partners in the burgeoning WLAN space run the gamut. An
agent can sell the circuits needed to provide bandwidth to the WLAN, whether
that be DSL, cable, T1 or other pipe, and then bring in the equipment for
additional revenue. Alternatively, an agent could partner with a VAR for the
equipment piece. Additionally, management software and services, integration and
other value-added services provide even more revenue possibilities.
We provide the Internet connection that ties the system together the WLAN
is hooked up to the Internet, says Tom Sullivan, cofounder of Wi-Fi Guys LLC,
which deploys Wi- Fi in hotels and offers agents commission on its Wi-Fi service
and upfront payments on equipment. We saw an opportunity to sell more Internet
connections to our hotel clients, DSL, T1s. We interconnect that with our
equipment to hook it up to the wireless network.
Wi-Fi Guys also offers Wi-Fi as a redundant Internet connection from its
hotel system to local businesses. Now whenever we put in one of our locations,
you can go to the local business areas and see if they want to buy a discount
back-up Internet connection, says Sullivan. It gives agents products and
services to sell they wouldnt otherwise have access to.
Master agency Association Resource Group is working with VARs that replace or
extend a companys Ethernet LAN with Wi-Fi. ARG can come in and examine the
business network services, and often captures the business by offering a better
quote on bandwidth. It also can layer on a redundancy sale. We have begun
working with a Wi-Fi IP provider primarily to offer customers a truly redundant
back-up service that doesnt rely on the land line providers, says Greg Praske,
CEO at ARG.
A few aggregators and WISPs offer turnkey packages for agents to sell. One
such is SkyRiver Communications Inc., which offers complete WLANs for the
hospitality and multitenant office/residential markets. Its agent program pays
partners a one-time percentage of the hardware sale and installation fees, and
the agent can bring his or her own broadband service to the deal. SkyRiver
master agents, including World Telecom Group and Ontario, Calif.-based Allcom,
offer other revenue opportunities.
For education and colleges, it will be the solution, says Vince Bradley,
founder, president and CEO of World Telecom Group. The infrastructure is
inefficient because all these people have dial-up. This will make things more
personal, it will completely change the way we do business and the way we look
at the industry.
Boingo Wireless Inc. offers consumer and corporate Wi-Fi plans via an agent
program. The latter allows agents to earn upgrade and renewal commissions on
that account in addition to the one-time upfront sign-up bonus.
For their part, equipment manufacturers are embracing the channel,
aggressively recruiting channel partners interested in taking business-oriented
products to market. Cisco offers a WLAN technology specialization for partners,
banking that such certified expertise will differentiate its VARs and
integrators in the market. One of the latest to earn the specialization is NEXL
Network Systems, which had its employees undergo testing to show it had an
account manager, responsible for the sales methodology of the Cisco wireless LAN
solutions; a systems engineer, responsible for the network planning and design;
and a field engineer, responsible for the implementation and support of the
wireless LAN solution.
Many small and medium-sized business and enterprise customers across a
variety of industries are deploying wireless LAN solutions, creating a
tremendous opportunity for our channel partners, says Surinder Brar, senior
director of Ciscos worldwide channels. Our Wireless LAN specialized companies,
like NEXL, will play a critical role in helping organizations realize the
flexibility, mobility and cost-savings benefits that wireless LAN solutions can
Many companies have launched niche products that partners can use to tap new
markets. For instance, ZyXEL Communications Co., which uses VARs conducting
on-site end-user sales and consultation as a channel, in January launched the
ZyWALL 70, an Internet security solution specifically for the small-to-medium
business market. It addresses wired and Wi-Fi access, and integrates firewall,
VPN, content filtering, bandwidth management and more into a single box. The
targets of the hacker attacks on the Internet are no longer limited to large
corporations, says Felix Chang, director of ZyXELs network security and
application division. That is, companies of any size may become the next victim
of network threats without warning. Despite the fact that the firewalls built
into the gateways in small companies can prevent the attacks to a certain level,
they are still vulnerable to the viral or worm assault from the networks
Meanwhile, Firetide announced the HotFusion Partner Program last fall,
signing two initial system integrator partners, Seattle Micro and Pacific
DirectConnect. Firetide is committed to working with leading wireless VARs,
system integrators and service providers to deploy the next evolution of
wireless networks and hotzones, says Frederick Harris, Firetides director of
channel marketing. Firetides HotPoint Wireless Mesh Router eliminates the need
for Ethernet backhaul for WLANs and create a self-configuring, self-healing IP
mesh network, known as a Firetide Wireless Instant Network. The name is fitting
– installation consists of plugging in the routers, which then self-scale and
self-configure. The solution targets places where hard wiring is unfeasible.
They also are compatible with existing off-the-shelf access points. HotPoints
are designed for an easy sale and requires no expensive training or
certification programs. The company says the instant solution gets partners
easily involved in the market, while the mesh, AC-outlet based aspect allows
them to differentiate themselves in the crowded WLAN space.
Another player in the mesh networking side of corporate Wi-Fi is Strix
Systems Inc., which offers the Access/One Network WLAN solution, consisting of
various modular components, including the wireless uplink and client
connections. We designed it for the channel, explains Bob Jordan, vice
president of marketing at Strix Systems. The company has gone so far to create a
deployment tool for partners, dubbed the Architect/One. [It] lets the channel
partner go in and engage the customer in a dialogue, lets them determine what
the customer situation is and how they want to use it, [and] their tolerance for
redundancy, explains Jordan. [Partners] can tell them without having to do a
full site survey where to place the nodes. This also is a professional services
revenue opportunity for the channel.
Also providing integration and professional services revenue to the channel,
Proxim just released a seamless mobility solution for converged voice and data
on WLANs. The OriNOCO Switching System is available as part of a total solution
featuring an IP PBX from Avaya Inc. and a Motorola Inc. handset to be rolled out
fully later this spring. The Switching System itself is available via Ingram
Micro Inc. VARs, but the full solution will require integration on the back
Network management is another area where channel partners can cash in.
BlueSocket Inc., for example, offers wireless gateways that secure and manage
WLANs, allowing IT managers to control how and when users can access the
network. The way the technology has evolved, there use to be one closet for the
telephone system and another for the network, says Patrick Rafter, BlueSockets
vice president of communications. Now that might be one Wi-Fi closet that can
manage both of those, which is creating interesting challenges for the skill
sets of the IT managers. So thats a tremendous opportunity for VARs and systems
integrators who can make it easier for these people.
With these and other options available, it appears WLANs offer channel
partners rich opportunities. Many industry players are bullish. I think people
are beginning to acknowledge that wireless, truly wireless networks, are the
future, says Doug Huemme, director of marketing at Strix Systems. We are
seeing a lot of deployments now where people are deploying full wireless
networks [as well as combination networks]…We are moving to complete networks
without wires and I expect to see that happen in the next couple of years.
|Association Resource Group www.assnresource.com
BlueSocket Inc. www.bluesocket.com
Boingo Wireless Inc. www.boingo.com
Cisco Systems Inc. www.cisco.com
Dell’Oro Group www.delloro.com
Proxim Corp. www.proxim.com
Sage Research Inc. www.sageresearch.com
SkyRiver Communications Inc. www.skyrivercommunications.com
Strix Systems Inc. www.strixsystems.com
Wi-Fi Guys LLC www.wi-figuys.com
World Telecom Group www.wtgcom.com
ZyXEL Communications Co. www.zyxel.com
Infonetics Research www.infonetics.com