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Enterprise WLAN market takes a tumble

Quarantines and lockdowns due to pandemic are presenting a headwind for the enterprise WLAN market, with falls in first quarter persisting over the next three months of the year

While the combined consumer and enterprise worldwide wireless local area network (WLAN) market segments rose 7.1% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020, and consumer growth was particularly strong on 20% annually, business in the enterprise WLAN segment has continued to show the strains of the Covid-19 pandemic on the enterprise, according to research from IDC.

The analyst’s Worldwide Quarterly Wireless LAN Tracker showed that despite accruing $1.4bn in revenue, the enterprise segment declined 9.5% in the second quarter of the year compared with the same period in 2019. It also meant that revenues for the enterprise class of WLAN infrastructure have now declined 6.1% in the first half of the yearly on a comparable 12-month basis.

Attributing drivers for the fall, IDC said that with Covid-19 continuing to spread, government-imposed quarantines and lockdowns have continued to create headwinds for the enterprise WLAN market. One positive driver for the enterprise WLAN market identified in the report has been the Wi-Fi 6 standard (802.11ax).

Across the enterprise market, Wi-Fi 6-enabled dependent access points (APs) made up 28.9% of revenues, up from 21.8% in the first quarter of 2020 and indicating significant adoption of the standard. IDC also found that Wi-Fi 6 units accounted for 16.8% of shipments, up from 11.8% in the previous quarter. The Wi-Fi 5 standard (802.11ac) still makes up the majority of dependent AP shipments (75.6%) and revenues (69.4%). Overall unit shipments in the enterprise WLAN market fell 6.4% compared to 2Q19.

“Organisations around the globe were forced to rapidly adjust their operations in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, leading some organisations to pause investments in WLAN equipment,” said Brandon Butler, senior research analyst, network infrastructure at IDC commenting upon the findings of the report.

“Wireless connectivity can play an important role in the new normal operations of enterprises, though,” he said. “From providing connectivity for cloud-based and communication applications, to enabling the ability to alert and enforce social distancing rules, IDC believes wireless networking will remain an important part of enterprise IT buying plans in the coming years.”

By way of a comparison, IDC noted that the consumer WLAN market grew 20.3% year over year in 2Q20. In the consumer market, 60.2% of shipments and 73.7% of revenues were for 802.11ac products. 802.11ax units made up 3.6% of shipments and 9.5% of revenues, showing the slow adoption of Wi-Fi 6 in the consumer market. APs supporting the older 802.11n standard still made up 36.2% of unit shipments and 16.8% of revenues.

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Looking regionally, IDC also found mixed results across the globe for the WLAN market in the second quarter of the year. The strongest growth was in Asia, where Japan’s market grew 20.8% year over year and China’s market was flat with 0.8% annual growth. Across the broader Asia/Pacific region, excluding Japan and China, IDC saw that the market fell 7.6% year over year. Within the region, Australia’s market declined 13.6%, India’s market dropped 18.7%, while Taiwan grew a strong 49.1%.

Yet in Europe, performances fell. In Western Europe, the enterprise market dropped 17.2% with Germany down 15.0% year-on-year, the UK falling 23.8%, and France tumbled 22.3%. Meanwhile the Netherlands was nearly flat with 1.0% growth.

The Central and Eastern Europe region was down 11.3% with Poland off 14.4% year over year. In the Middle East and Africa, the market fell 5.7% on the year, with Saudi Arabia dropping 18.7% on an annualised basis. In the Americas, the US fell 11.1% from a year ago while Canada dropped 14.8% year over year. The Latin American market fell 16.2% with Brazil declining 17.3% compared with Q219.

Four of the top five enterprise WLAN technology supplier showed falling revenues in the quarter. IDC noted that Cisco’s enterprise WLAN revenues decreased 10.9% year over year in to $626 million, meaning a slip of 8.9% compared with the first half of 2019.

Cisco still remained the market share leader, finishing the quarter with 44.3% share, inching back down from 45.7% in the first quarter. HPE-Aruba revenues fell 17.1% annually and the company’s market share stood at 12.8% while Ubiquiti enterprise WLAN revenues fell 5.0% year over year.

The company’s market share was 7.1%, down from 9.5% in the previous quarter. Q2 revenues for CommScope, formerly ARRIS/Ruckus, declined 22.8% compared with the same quarter in 2019 ending with a 4.9% market share in the quarter. By contrast, Huawei’s WLAN revenues rose 2.5% year-on-year in Q2 20 and its market share rose to 6.1% from 3.8% in the previous quarter.

“The enterprise WLAN market saw mixed results across geographies, based largely on the spread of the Covid-19 global health pandemic,” said Petr Jirovsky, research director, Worldwide Networking Trackers at IDC. “Research shows that while some enterprises are reducing spending for WLAN equipment, others have kept investment plans steady, with some even increasing spending.”

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