Datamonitor said it believed that technical obstacles to the widespread adoption of WLan in business have now been overcome. Globally, early adopt-ers of WLans have been the retail and manufacturing sectors, but Datamonitor found that education and healthcare organisations were now making significant investments in wireless technology.
Manufacturers spent £30m in 2003 on WLan technology, but are expected to spend £44m annually by 2006. Annual WLan spending in education is set to increase from £15m today to £35m in 2006. Over the same period, retail is due to grow from £14m to £23m, and healthcare from £9m to £15m. It also found there was strong take-up of WLans in the financial and professional services sectors.
Until recently, WLan adoption was hampered by concerns over poor security, confusion over standards and a lack of devices being bundled with integrated wireless connectivity.
Security concerns have been eased with the introduction of the Wi-Fi Protected Access standard, which provides more protection than the existing Wired Equivalent Privacy protocol.
The choice of connectivity standards has also become more focused with the launch of 802.11g, which combines the best features of the popular 802.11b standard with the competing 802.11a specification.
Previously, users who wanted to connect to a WLan were limited to one of two incompatible standards: 802.11b for access up to 11mbps and 802.11a for 54mbps access. The slower 802.11b standard is widely deployed, but 802.11a is unlikely to be a big hit in Europe.
Datamonitor analyst Tim Gower said, "802.11a will not gain significant traction in Europe in comparison to the US, primarily because it is not backwards compatible with 802.11b."
Gower said the 802.11g standard would prove more popular in Europe, as it offered 54mbps access and was compatible with 802.11b. He added that the launch of Intel's Centrino integrated-WLan system in laptops has also made connecting to a WLan much easier.
Gartner analysts said businesses should adopt WLan now, to avoid staff implementing insecure systems themselves.