Enterprise Wi-Fi price set to crash, say analysts

Standalone access points from suppliers such as Proxim and security gateways or "appliances", such as those from Vernier Networks...

Standalone access points from suppliers such as Proxim and security gateways or "appliances", such as those from Vernier Networks or Bluesocket will be hit by a price crash in enterprise wireless Lans.

Enterprise access points, which include better security and manageability than the consumer products, have held their price, but that cannot continue, warned Gabriel Brown, chief analyst at Unstrung Insider.

Enterprise access points cost about £250, while consumer access points can now easily be found for £35 or less.

"802.11b has been all but abandoned for the enterprise," said Brown.

The 802.11b enterprise access points cost an average of £220, he said, but those products still on the market are basically end-of-life designs, with the market leader Cisco Systems abandoning it altogether.

802.11g access points cost an average of £310, while multimode access points cost £458, although that differential will not stay for long, said Brown.

Cisco still manages to charge a premium, with access points listing at £700, although the street price is likely to be two thirds of that, he said.

Appliances, such as Vernier's and Bluesocket's are "superseded" by wireless switches so price competition will get more intense there.

"In the appliance/gateway sector, prices are getting hammered," said Brown.

Finally, wireless switches still sell for a premium. Systems sell for between £400 and £600 per port (a port on these systems is roughly equivalent to an access point), making them comparable in price to standalone access points, and a good deal when management and other functions are taken into account.

However, the price varies considerably depending on how many access points are attached to the system, and the systems all bundle different amounts of software: some include RF management and security while others make them into extra modules.

 "The basic problem is the plethora of competitors, combined with the paucity of real product differentiation," said Brown.

Prices will fall, to boost volumes, he predicted. Already, Symbol - the longest established wireless switch supplier - is the only company to really deliver on the "thin access point" promise, in terms of the price of those APs, which cost about £100 (for an 802.11b-only product).

Peter Judge writes for Techworld.com

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