Wireless local-area network (LAN) technologies are set to become the “”next disruptive technology,”” according to one research firm.

In a report issued earlier this year, IDC predicted that wireless LAN products will dramatically affect the networking industry, similar to what cell phones did to

traditional voice networks. By 2006, the worldwide equipment market for wireless LAN products will reach US$3.72 billion, IDC predicts.

Enterprise vendors will add wireless options to their product lines, but a good deal of the growth in the market will likely come from home networking and small-office/home-office (SOHO) users, according to the report. Education and retail organizations are also likely candidates for wireless LAN technology, as are “”visitor-based”” networks, housed in hotels and at airports.

Broader enterprise acceptance is expected to come later, according to IDC. Other industry watchers agree that not all enterprise users are ready to cut the wires. In a report released this past June, Forrester Research Inc. argues that many large organizations are holding off on widespread deployment of wireless LANs. While 20 per cent of Global 3,500 firms are implementing the technology, Forrester claims that many firms’ plans are likely to remain “”conservative”” for now. A July report from Dell’Oro Group made similar claims, predicting growth for the wireless LAN market to top US$3 billion by 2006. Vendors will find more success with SOHO customers initially, with enterprise customers stepping in once security and interoperability have improved, the report predicts.

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