Wireless wonders

Home and small office demand for wireless networking and storage is creating new opportunities for the channel

Tags: Buffalo Technology IncorporatedD-Link Middle EastEMPA Middle EastJacky's ElectronicsNetgear Incorporation
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Wireless wonders Jasem Al Roomi, managing director, Buffalo Advantec.
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By  Aaron Greenwood Published  May 23, 2011

The proliferation of wireless devices designed for the home and office is driving demand for reliable high-speed data and storage network technologies and creating new opportunities for vendors and their channel partners.

The market for home and small-to-medium business (SMB) networking technologies is booming worldwide, driven by the uptake of new Wi-Fi-enabled devices ranging from smartphones to televisions and gaming consoles.

The demand for these technologies is supplementing sales of more traditional Wi-Fi-enabled products, such as computers, printers and scanners. Despite the impact of the recession on consumer sentiment, global sales of home and SMB networking devices grew 11% in 2010, to $5.15 billion, according to recent data released by Infonetics Research.

“This growth came on the heels of a 46% jump the previous year, with all segments of the market posting increases,” explains Jeff Heynen, directing analyst for broadband access at Infonetics Research.

In the GCC region, sales of routers, wireless range extenders and other networking hardware is booming, driven both by consumer sales of wireless devices and the growing availability of high-speed broadband services in the home and office. Indeed, the convergence of these two once distinct markets has been characterised by the development of wireless technologies regularly used in both domains.

“More mobile devices were sold during the last quarter of 2010 than any other hand-held platform,” comments Ahmed Zeidan, channel sales manager for Netgear Middle East. “The wall that once divided home and business, in terms of internet service provision, has been torn down with the advent of wireless connectivity for these handheld devices.

“Business customers originally perceived mobile connectivity as a challenge but the real challenge lies in managing the wireless network that enables the connectivity. For example, older Wi-Fi routers and connectivity devices have proven incompatible with newer handheld devices.

“Bandwidth and ensuring reliable wireless coverage have become major issues in many homes and offices. As a result of this, we see tremendous commercial opportunities in regards to next-generation dual-band Wireless-N technologies, as well as ancillary products like wireless range extenders and powerline connectors.”

The newest IEEE 802.11n-based routers provide massively improved bandwidth and support for the latest wireless technologies. All next-generation consumer and SMB products now on sale are compatible with this standard.

According to Jasem Al Roomi, managing director of wireless networking specialist Buffalo Advantec, the company’s Wireless-N routers featuring Atheros Wireless Chipsets offer net throughputs of 100Mb/s, rivalling data speeds offered by broadband cable Ethernet services.

“So the bandwidth limitations prevalent to older 802.11b/g routers are a non-issue with the latest 802.11n-based technologies,” he says. “This ensures the latest consumer and SMB technologies can be connected to the network at the same time.

“The other notable advantage is the coverage offered by 802.11n routers, since they employ dual-antennas to distribute their wireless signals.” 802.11n’s potential for generating unprecedented throughputs augers well for the future development of bandwidth-intensive wireless technologies, although Sakkeer Hussain K. sales and marketing manager for D-Link Middle East and Africa says it will also raise some other issues.

“With better bandwidth provided by ISPs, 11g usage will decline and 11n based wireless networking will develop prominence. Real throughput, dead spots, quality of service and the need for encryption will be the new questions raised over wireless home networks,” he says.

The use of 11n will drive wireless speeds from 300mbps to 450mbps and 600mbps respectively, Hussain says. The region has also seen a migration from ADSL to fibre in the last two years, which also creates a demand for products such as D-Link’s 11n ADSL router (DSL-2750U) which is designed to work on a ADSL or a fibre/broadband connection, protecting the customer’s investment.

Netgear’s top-of-the-range N750 wireless router, for example, which is designed to operate on 802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands simultaneously, is said to be capable of providing aggregate throughputs of up 750Mb/s.

Recent research published by IDC predicts worldwide shipments of Wireless-N routers will increase 158% from 2010 – 2014, while the number of households equipped with multimedia networks will grow 103% over the same period. Welcome news for channel players keen to promote the benefits and uses of next-generation wireless devices as well as digital home technologies.

The GCC region, which leads the Middle East in terms of fibre-optic broadband services, is ideally placed to benefit from the proliferation of 802.11n-based technologies, says Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer of UAE power retailer, Jacky’s Electronics.

“The Middle East [market for wireless devices] is growing tremendously and this can be seen in the boom in fibre-optic and mobile broadband options now available,” he says.

“The UAE in particular is ahead of many regions in terms of having a fibre-optic network which enables faster data speeds supporting consolidated voice, data and television services.  The same applies to mobile broadband services, with data speeds of up to 42Mb/s now available on USB dongles or data SIM cards.”

Panjabi says the availability of reliable data services is also generating strong consumer interest in personal wireless hotspots, including those linked to smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone and HTC’s range of handsets.

“The same scenario applies to fibre-optic connectivity as in many households you will see people using multiple devices simultaneously and have them all connected to the internet at the same time,” he says. “A few years ago, when connecting to the internet was more expensive and data speeds were slower, you’d hesitate to connect as many devices as you do today for fear of crashing the network.”

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