A world of WLAN
Wireless local area network (WLAN) or‘Wi-Fi’ is a technology exhibiting enormous growth across Western Europe, North America and parts of Asia. Currently, the revenue drawn from WLAN ventures in Western Europe is 99 billion Euro—a figure estimated to climb to 2.42 billion Euro
by 2007. The number of WLAN ‘hot spots’ or centres of coverage in Western Europe is currently around 1400, and is predicted to grow to 30,000 in the same time frame. Similar WLAN growth is exhibited in North America.
The immediate commercial challenge is that there is no consistent and accepted business model for WLAN operation, with growth haphazard and unregulated. At present, WLAN remains almost exclusively in the hands of wireless internet providers, small operators and building owners, with only limited involvement to-date by larger celcos and telcos. Technically, there is a growing issue of multiple WLAN standards, specifically the 2.4-GHz WLAN (802.11b and ‘speed extended’ 802.11g variants) and the emerging 5-GHz/54 mbps 802.11A standard. The challenge confronting
operators—most particularly building
owners—is to determine just which WLAN standard they should prepare for.
It is clear that all three major WLAN
standards will need to co-exist for some time, and that today’s conventional
narrowband ‘access point’ technologies simply do not offer an optimal futureproof solution. RFS will unveil important
broadband solutions in 2004 to help
address this emerging challenge.
Global standards and spectrum
In the past year we’ve witnessed great changes in the standards, spectrum allo
cations and technologies that define
our regional industry sectors. We’ve
seen the global system for mobile
communications (GSM) cellular standard gain a strong footing for the first
time across the Americas, although CDMA subscriptions still dominate in North
America. Moreover, we’ve seen the USA’s Federal Communications Commission(FCC) announce 2004 auctions of spectrum
in the 1710-1755/2110-2155-MHz range
(potentially to meet 3G cellular demand), and remove the 45-MHz ‘spectrum cap’.
Meanwhile in China—the world’s largest single cellular market—there remains
uncertainty over which technology the country’s regulator might select for future 3G cellular networks, and when this might happen. The past year has also seen the emergence and maturing of important new ‘open standards’ for cellular base station technologies.
All-in-all, the options are broadening. The challenge facing operators as we head into 2004 is to select technologies and solutions that are genuinely futureproof. RFS’s
objective will be to provide certainty in an uncertain world. Our product set will
continue to support all major cellular
standards, and we will broaden and
extend our important broadband/multiband solutions, which are specifically
designed to accommodate multi-platform solutions. RFS is also an active participant in the committees and industry groups behind the emerging base station ‘open standards’—late-2003 and 2004 will see many RFS products unveiled that have been
developed in accordance with these.
Change in the wireless industry’s broader economic and regulatory environments during 2003 has significantly reshaped parts of our industry. In some countries, regulators have opened the way for limited mobility wireless services—such as China’s ‘Little Smart’ and ‘Limited Mobility’ in India—representing both market opportunity and threat in the form of non-traditional ‘competitors’. Similarly, the dip in the
European and US markets has encouraged Chinese OEMs, such as ZTE and Huawei, to move outside their traditional geographic bounds, providing new competition to
incumbent OEMs. Meanwhile in the US,
local number portability has created new opportunities for cellular operators, while presenting new challenges in the form of increased levels of subscriber churn.
Clearly the wireless industry—and in some parts of the world the very definition of ‘wireless’—is changing at an enormous pace. Monitoring and accommodating this change will be at the heart of commercial success in our sector, for change brings both opportunity and challenge. Working with operators, OEMs, industry bodies and regulators, RFS is committed to standing at the leading edge of this change, to ensure it provides optimal RF solutions for today and tomorrow.
From many perspectives, 2004 will be a genuinely exciting year for us all, with the global wireless industry having reached an important stage of maturity, resilience and innovation. RFS looks forward to providing you with the best the wireless world has to offer in 2004—and beyond.