ABI Research: WLAN to expand into new verticals

14 July 2023

Continued WiFi and wireless technology innovation will enable the expansion of enterprise WLAN into new verticals and innovative use cases and open lucrative market opportunities in the process.

On the back of key advancements, including WiFi 7, growing collaboration with 5G private networks, and increased utilization of the 6GHz spectrum, ABI Research is forecasting that revenue from enterprise WLAN infrastructure will achieve a 9.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2022 and 2028. Shipments of WLAN APs will rise by a 9.4% CAGR over the same period.

“The addressable market for WLAN is being enlarged alongside the introduction of new technologies. For example, WiFi 7 will help deliver the deterministic low latency required for mission-critical industrial automation applications and emerging real-time technologies such as AR/VR. Again, WLAN’s convergence with 5G in private networks will allow the combined technologies to be deployed in environments in which wireless was previously unable to service, raising the addressable market for both technologies,” said Andrew Spivey, senior analyst at ABI Research. “To exploit these additional opportunities, vendors need to foster partnerships and build competencies for new applications and demonstrate to consumers that their WLAN solutions can satisfy the requirements of these new use cases.”

Throughout the recent surge in WLAN shipments, vendor market shares remained relatively consistent, although new market developments could significantly disrupt inter-vendor dynamics. As organizations increasingly favour OpEx models in the form of as-a-service delivery over CapEx-heavy upfront investments, vendors who can successfully implement HaaS across their entire portfolio will have the edge. The emergence of new value-added services and the evolution of WLAN network management are also poised to transform the market. Generative AI, for example, will streamline and simplify the way administrators manage the network and receive insights. At the same time, tighter integrations with third-party platforms will bring expanded real-time network data exploration, enabling more targeted and actionable network analytics and insights.

“Successfully incorporating these latest software developments into platforms will become increasingly important going forward,” said Spivey.

While larger vendors, with their market-dominant position and extensive pool of resources, may appear best placed to exploit the opportunities these new services offer, they also move slower and struggle to integrate new technologies seamlessly into legacy platforms. “On the other hand, smaller vendors are often nimbler and better equipped to incorporate new features consistently across their entire portfolio. They also have the advantage of greater focus and network management simplicity. For this reason, the emergence of new services provides smaller vendors a golden opportunity to eat into the market shares of their larger peers,” said Spivey.