Fears over wireless security are hampering enterprise adoption of Wi-Fi technology, although smaller businesses seem less concerned.
The value of the market share between enterprise and small office/home office customers is roughly equal, but in terms of unit volume small businesses are out-buying enterprises by five to one.
"It has become apparent to us that enterprise markets were avoiding Wi-Fi because of security worries," said Kirk Allchorne, marketing co-chairman for the Wi-Fi Alliance, which represents wireless equipment vendors and service providers.
"We rather naively thought that Wi-Fi adoption would grow automatically. However, it has been smaller businesses that have been driving growth.
"Hopefully our new security standards are addressing the concerns of enterprises, although the economic situation hasn't helped."
To counter this the Alliance is abandoning the outdated Wired Equivalent Privacy security protocol and making Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) mandatory from August for new products.
The WPA certification process, completed at the end of April, can be installed on existing hardware via firmware upgrades rather than hardware replacement.
But a full implementation of 802.11i, or WPA version 2 as it will be known, will require a hardware upgrade to deal with encryption.
"I don't think enterprises need convincing to get Wi-Fi; that's a done deal," said Michael Wall, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
"There have always been security tools but there's a lack of education by vendors and a trade-off between ease of use and security. These moves are going to help a lot."
Testing on the 802.11g standard is underway and the Alliance has insisted that all hardware using it must be backwards compatible with 802.11b.
The new standard, which offers 54Mbps Wi-Fi connectivity over the 2.4GHz spectrum, is expected to be ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) by August, although products have already started appearing on the market.
Wall warned that vendors offering products now are guessing at the standard. "The people shipping them are working on the best guess of what the final standard will be," he said.
The 802.11h standard should be ratified by the IEEE in July. This offers 802.11a Wi-Fi, which operates in the 5GHz spectrum, but with dynamic frequency shifting to handle individual countries' slightly different spectrum requirements.
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