Vendors gear up for major Wi-Fi push

Next year will see a massive increase in the uptake of Wi-Fi networks by UK businesses, wireless vendor Aruba is predicting.

The company has hired several new senior personnel to help it deal with what it expects to be a rush to adopt its unwired products.

"The days of wireless as a convenience solution will soon be over," said Keerti Melkote, co-founder and VP of marketing at Aruba.

"Wi-Fi used to be deployed in conference rooms, and other specialist areas, but now it's becoming pervasive. It's turning into a mission critical infrastructure requirement."

He believes that the business world is well on the way to across-the-board mobile access for all users in an organization, for both data and voice traffic.

"Natural mobile enterprises like healthcare businesses, oil companies and airports have been the driving force to date, but it's spreading well beyond that," he told IT Pro.

"We're seeing a lot of 25,000 and 30,000 wireless projects, but 100,000 and even 1m ones aren't unknown. Budgets for wireless solutions are increasing dramatically. We're excited about next year."

Melkote's excitement could be well founded, believes Ian Keen, research VP at analyst company Gartner. "I'd go along with optimism about next year for Wi-Fi," he said.

"Wi-Fi is on 80 per cent of professional PCs, and it's in the home too where many business people now do at least some of their work. People are getting used to it."

He says the era of the isolated hotspot could be on the way out, with many municipal organizations in the US and the UK investing in wider Wi-Fi coverage.

But Keen says poor wireless security could spoil the party unless far more is done to make Wi-Fi networks safe. "There are still far too many unprotected networks out there," he warned.

"It doesn't need to be this way, if businesses would only put proper security policies in place. At the moment they're just switching on a couple of access points and not bothering about security. This could come back to bite pretty easily."