Wireless Ethernet increasingly popular for industrial networks

26 February 2007

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In a recently completed six-volume market study on global markets and user requirements for wireless and wireline network infrastructure products used in industrial facilities, Venture Development Corporation (VDC) found extensive deployment of wireless Ethernet (Wi-Fi) networking, with an increasing trend toward even greater usage.

Of the infrastructure products studied, shipments using proprietary protocols - principally in the 900MHz and 2.4GHz bands - accounted for the highest share of worldwide shipments in 2006, at about 47 per cent of the total. However, the shipment growth rate for these is forecast at below average, and the shipment share is expected to decline to about 44 per cent in 2011.

Several factors will account for the trend to higher growth in use of wireless standards. These include the established base and familiarity among both engineers and IT departments with IEEE 802.11 and other standards. The benefits of using standard networks include lower prices, interchangeable suppliers and established best practices (including security and interference protection, as well as ease of installation).

In 2006, products under study incorporating wireless Ethernet IEEE 802.11 standards accounted for almost 44 per cent of all worldwide shipments, and are forecast to account for over 48 per cent in 2011. In this explosive market, the highest shipment growth rate is expected for products using the IEE 802.11 standards. Of the total market gain of $868.9million expected in 2011 compared to the 2006 market, products using wireless Ethernet IEEE 802.11 standards are expected to account for $430.6million, or almost 50 per cent of the increase.

Above-average growth is also expected in shipments of the infrastructure products under study, with use of the mesh networking IEEE 802.15.4 standard and protocols built upon it (most notably ZigBee). These will continue to account for a larger share of shipments as low-power, low-data-rate meshed sensor networks find wider acceptance. However, despite the hype, mesh networking is not expected to account for a significant portion of the industrial wireless networking infrastructure market by 2011.

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