IEEE 802.11 Networks Gaining Ground on Proprietary Wireless Networks

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff September 26, 2005

IEEE 802.11 networks are working their way up the network ladder and are expected to realize the largest market share gains among wireless industrial products in North America by 2007.

According to a recent study conducted by market research firm Venture Development Corporation, IEEE 802.11a, b and g networks collectively account for 33.6% of the $150.5 million 2004 North American market for wireless products used in on-site industrial monitoring and control applications, and VDC expects this number to increase to 41.4% in 2007, with the total market dollar amount reaching $409.3 million.

Proprietary protocols operating in the 900 MHz band led the way in 2004, followed by IEEE 802.11b, and the two network types combined to account for just over half of all shipments. The same is expected in 2007, but with IEEE 802.11b gaining ground.

So why the shift away from proprietary networks? VDC lists several reasons: lower prices of IEEE 802.11 products compared to most proprietary networks; standardization of office and plant floor networks; multiple vendor options; high data throughput; and brand name familiarity among IT staff. On the other hand, proprietary networks are often preferred in industrial applications where transmission distances are longer and bandwidth requirements are not high. Due to the advantages of both types of networks in different applications, many wireless suppliers are expanding their product lines to include both standard and proprietary networks.