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Campus network innovation to fuel 150% growth in enterprise WLAN revenue by 2030, according to ABI Research

September 26, 2023

Posted by: Shriya Raban

Campus networks are getting more complex due to increased client density, higher performance demands, new ultra-reliable applications, and changing industry requirements. This has led to accelerated WLAN (wireless local area network) development, including the introduction of Wi-Fi 7 and 6 GHz like open-source architectures and AI. These advancements address current challenges and open new opportunities in campus applications and markets.

Network topologies are also changing, with denser WLAN access points (APs) handling more users and shifting toward cloud-native, controller-free architectures for more straightforward, more resilient, and scalable networks. According to global technology intelligence firm ABI Research, while the enterprise campus will remain the large market, the industrial, large public venue, and education sectors will see the high growth rates between 2022 and 2030, at 23.9%, 14.3%, and 12.4%, respectively.

“Of all the markets that WLAN serves, the requirements of campus networks are the most complex and evolve the fastest. For this reason, satisfying the demands of modern campus networking is one of the strongest drivers of WLAN innovation today,” explains Andrew Spivey, senior analyst at ABI Research. “Yet WLAN alone cannot address all campus opportunities, and therefore solutions which integrate the strengths of 5G and IoT technologies with WLAN have the highest value propositions for campus networking, as they can enable ubiquitous, high-performance, high-reliability wireless connectivity for virtually all campus use cases.

There are four distinct groupings of WLAN vendors supplying campus. The first are the all-rounders addressing virtually all campus types, a category which includes CiscoHPE Aruba Networking, and CommScope RUCKUS Networks. The second are the vertically focused which optimise for certain industries, such as Arista and Extreme Networks. The third are the technology professionals which differentiate through the application of unique or highly innovative technologies. Fortinet, which places advanced security at the core of its value proposition, fits this definition.

The final group are the small and medium business (SMB) targeted vendors like NETGEAR and D-Link. Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages. All-rounders enjoy the largest Total Addressable Market (TAM) but need more focus and targeted optimisations for specific sectors. Although the vertical focused can become trusted suppliers for their chosen industry, they may lack the capabilities to address opportunities outside of their niche. Technology specialists’ success is contingent on their chosen technology’s fortunes. Finally, the targeted SMB operates in a market that, although offering a low barrier to entry, suffers from lower margins due to price sensitivity.

The WLAN improvement will enable MSPs (managed service providers) to provide the guaranteed SLAs (service-level agreement) for high predictability and reliability that modern campus environments require, and the introduction of OpEx-orientated network-as-a-service (NaaS) models will help expand access to these performance standards to a broader market. “Lean enterprises have been the fastest to adopt NaaS, as they rely on short-term financial planning and are keen to reduce CAPEX (capital expenditure) and cut IT budgets by shifting to an OPEX model. This includes those in the carpeted enterprise, retail, and hospitality verticals. In contrast, large public venues, healthcare facilities, and industrial manufacturing sites are proving resistant to handing campus networking management over to MSPs or WLAN vendors, as they wish to retain control over the network and, in many cases, are facing comparatively less pressure with talent sourcing and retention,” Spivey concludes.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Next-Generation WLAN for Campus Networking: Market Opportunities, Challenges, and Business Models application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Wi-Fi and WLAN Technologies and Markets research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, market data reports present in-depth analysis of key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

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