Global enterprise WLAN market dips in first quarter of 2020

While wireless connectivity remains an important technology for organisations worldwide as more users and devices than ever rely on mobile devices to connect to bandwidth-intensive applications, the wireless local area network (WLAN) industry has shown it is not immune to the impact of Covid-19, according to research from IDC.

The company’s Worldwide quarterly WLAN tracker showed that even though the overall combined consumer and enterprise worldwide WLAN market segments rose 2.3% year-on-year (YoY) in the first quarter of 2020, the enterprise segment fell 2.2% annually over the same period.

Noting drivers for the quarter, IDC said a key trend was the impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic on the enterprise WLAN market. As coronavirus began spreading in China early in the quarter, then expanded into Europe and North America later in the quarter, the subsequent lockdown of economies hampered growth for the enterprise WLAN market.

This negative force in enterprise WLAN was partially offset by the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, also known 802.11ax. IDC found that across the enterprise market, Wi-Fi 6-supported dependent access points (APs) made up 11.8% of unit shipments and 21.8% of revenues with the previous Wi-Fi generation standard, 802.11ac, still making up the majority of shipments (80.9%) and revenues (76.2%).

At the same time, the consumer WLAN market grew 5.5% YoY in the first quarter of 2020. Within this market, 62.5% of shipments and 79.4% of revenues were for 802.11ac products. APs supporting the older 802.11n standard still made up 36.9% of unit shipments and 17.6% of revenues – not surprising, said IDC, given the price sensitivity seen across many emerging markets.

Looking at where such markets were located and from a general geographic perspective, IDC found that global enterprise WLAN market saw mixed results across geographies, based largely on the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The WLAN market saw strong growth in the Middle East and Africa region, which increased 8.4% YoY in the first quarter of 2020. The United Arab Emirates was up 12.0% and Turkey’s market grew 15.7%. North American markets fared well in the quarter too, with the US market growing 6.9% in the first quarter of 2020, compared with the quarter a year ago, while the Canadian enterprise WLAN market was up 10.6%.

Perhaps a bellwether came with the performance of Asia, in particular in the People’s Republic of China, the overall WLAN market oh which declined yearly in the first quarter of 2020 by a significant 23.0%. The broader Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan and China, was off 10.6%, with India declining 13.6% and Australia down 15.6%. Japan’s market performed better, but dipped 2.8% compared with the first quarter of 2019.

European markets had mixed results, with Central and Eastern Europe up 1.8% YoY, driven by Russia’s enterprise WLAN market growing 6.0% and Poland increasing 6.6%. Western Europe was off 6.2% with declines in the UK (-3.9%), Germany (-7.7%), and France (-9.8%).

Given that the pandemic has now spread across the rest of the world, IDC expects the effect on the enterprise WLAN market to continue into the second quarter of 2020.

In terms of leading suppliers, Cisco remained the WLAN market share leader at the end of the first quarter of 2020, finishing the quarter with 45.7% share, up from 44.6% for the full year 2019. Its enterprise WLAN revenues decreased 6.7% YoY in the first quarter of 2020 to $611m.

HPE-Aruba revenues rose 14.2% annually in the first quarter of 2020, increasing market share from 13.8% for the full year 2019 to 14.4% in quarter one of 2020. Ubiquiti also saw its enterprise WLAN revenues rise 24.8% compared with the first quarter of 2019, leading to a market share of 9.5%.

Faring less well were CommScope whose revenues declined in the first quarter of 2020 by 4.7% YoY leading to a 5.2% market share; and Huawei which saw revenues decline 15.0% over the 12 months to the end of the first quarter of 2020. Its market share stood at 3.8% to end the quarter.

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