Cloud, IoT and security are driving enterprise WiFi investments, IHS Markit says

LONDON (July 27, 2017) – IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO), a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions, today released findings from its WLAN Strategies North American enterprise survey, which takes an in-depth look at the access networks of medium-to-large companies and their plans for delivering wireless connectivity in the workplace to new types of devices.

The annual survey of network managers shows that investments in WLANs continue unabated, driven by growth in users, a shift toward mobile devices and wireless access, adoption of IoT, and the need for greater security and network performance. Security in particular is the number one network change by a wide margin, and the top reason to invest in new infrastructure as companies must fend off a constant barrage of cyberattacks.

“Our research found that workplaces are changing, and employees will spend a majority of their time away from their primary workstation in the future,” said Matthias Machowinski, senior research director for enterprise networks and video at IHS Markit. “Retailers are at the forefront of this trend, but we expect a broad range of industries to follow suit. As companies adopt mobility-centric processes, it’s crucial that employees keep access to communication tools and information wherever they are, and this requirement is driving the current WiFi investment cycle.”

Respondents are growing their installed base of access points (APs) by 20 percent per year, and upgrading to newer technologies to address growing coverage and capacity requirements. The not-yet-released 802.11ax standard is the most common type of AP that respondents plan to purchase by 2019.

Tablets are the number one type of device new to the network over the next year, followed by a host of IoT-related devices such as cars, lighting controls, displays, speakers, sensors, thermostats, appliances, drones and ATMs. Also new, but in smaller numbers, are wearables and virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) devices.

In past years, cloud applications were not a major contributor to WiFi traffic growth, but this changed in 2017, with cloud now among the top three drivers due to the adoption of new IT architectures, public cloud services and devices whose functionality relies on cloud connectivity.

Key data points from the IHS Markit report:

  • Respondents expect their user populations to grow at a double-digit rate annually over the next two years. Guests account for almost half the user population today, and represent the fastest growing segment (growing 18 percent per year)
  • Respondents expect their installed base of IP desk phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs to grow by more than 30 percent by 2019. Mobile devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) will grow at over twice the rate of tethered devices
  • “Cord cutting” continues to gather steam: respondents expect two-thirds of their employees to connect to the network exclusively via WiFi by 2019
  • Performance and reliability are the top two criteria respondents use when choosing vendors
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