wireless lanGrowth slowed across the global wireless local-area network (WLAN) space in 2015’s first quarter, according to preliminary results from the IDC Worldwide Quarterly WLAN Tracker. Growth across the enterprise and consumer segments of the WLAN market combined amounted to 0.6 percent year-over-year (YoY) in 1Q’15.

Coming in at 3 percent, YoY growth in the enterprise WLAN market segment was the slowest IDC has recorded in years, IDC highlights in a press release. The market research provider cites two key factors: a delay in the release of E-rate funding for K-12 U.S. schools and weakness across the regional Asia-Pacific public sector.

Reversing a moderate growth trend that persisted for several quarters, the consumer WLAN market fell 2 percent YoY in 1Q’15. 802.11ac revenues for the consumer WLAN market segment skyrocketed 143 percent higher YoY but rose just 2.1 percent quarter-to-quarter.

Wireless LAN Growth Drivers
The rapid rise hasn’t been enough to offset the decline in revenues across the much larger base of prior generation 802.11n equipment, however. 802.11n revenues for the consumer WLAN market segment fell 27.1 percent YoY and 14.9 percent sequentially in 1Q.

IDC points out that 802.11ac continues on the path to becoming the new WLAN standard. Now available for seven quarters, 802.11ac accounted for a little over 40 percent of dependent access point unit shipments and 55 percent of dependent access point revenues in 1Q. That growth rate is substantially greater than that experienced during the transition from 802.11 a/b/g to 802.11n WLAN standard equipment.

IDC anticipates 802.11ac WLAN equipment will become the predominant standard worldwide in terms of both shipments and revenues by 2016. Demand from large business enterprises will be a driving factor, IDC says.

“From education to healthcare to large enterprise, the increasing preference for wireless network access will continue to be seen, especially as emerging Wave 2 802.11ac will enable more applications to move to wireless,” Nolan Greene, IDC research analyst, Network Infrastructure, was quoted as saying. “While seasonality and the future release of E-rate funding slowed growth in the first quarter of 2015, we expect 802.11ac’s momentum to once again boost the market in subsequent quarters.”

Breaking out its research data geographically, IDC’s latest preliminary WLAN market data reveals that growth in the U.S. enterprise WLAN market segment declined 5.4 percent YoY.

“Many of the regions saw healthy growth in the first quarter as 802.11ac deployments increased and organizations worldwide are becoming more dependent upon enterprise WLANs,” commented IDC Research Manager, Worldwide Networking Tracker’s Petr Jirovský. “However, weakness in the U.S. due to postponed projects and seasonal softness had a material impact on the overall worldwide growth rate.”

Additional WLAN research highlights from IDC include:

  • Cisco’s 1Q15 worldwide enterprise WLAN revenue was once again comparable to the overall market, growing 2.4% year over year, despite declining -16.0% quarter over quarter. Cisco’s worldwide market share fell slightly to 47.8% in 1Q15, down from the more than 48% share seen in the last two quarters and in 1Q14. IDC believes that the Meraki cloud-managed WLAN portfolio remains one of the primary growth drivers for Cisco.
  • Aruba (excluding its OEM business) was a major bright spot in a weakened 1Q15, increasing 20.1% year over year and 0.8% sequentially. Aruba’s market share jumped to 14.0% compared to 11.8% in 4Q14 and 12.0% in 1Q14.
  • Ruckus performed better than the market in 1Q15, growing 7.2% year over year, while dropping 5.0% quarter over quarter. Ruckus currently accounts for 6.9% of the overall market, up from 6.6% in 1Q14.
  • HP Networking continued to struggle as it declined 15.5% year over year and 28.2% sequentially in 1Q15. Customer uncertainty around HP WLAN given the Aruba acquisition may be playing into this decline. HP’s market share stands at 3.6% compared to 4.4% for 1Q14.

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