In 2003, I expect to see sustained growth in the popularity of wireless LANs based on 802.11 Wi-Fi.
Home wireless LANs will continue to follow spreading deployment of always-on cable, satellite, and DSL residential broadband connections. Commodity-priced, plug-and-play wireless LAN gear makes Internet connection sharing easier, even for novices. Service providers will begin offering wireless LAN implementation as part of service turn-up, installing your Wi-Fi gateway along with your satellite receiver or DSL/cable modem. Wireless LAN adapters will emerge for audio/video and gaming equipment in the home, enabling wireless distribution of content from DVR to entertainment system to flat-panel display.
Business travelers will become increasingly reliant on hotspot wireless LANs, finding them a high-speed, convenient, low-cost alternative to dial-up and cellular Internet access. Even when employers do not authorize or financially support wireless LAN hotspot use, road warriors will make productive use of idle time at airports and hotels, paying for a la carte access. Hotspot aggregators like iPass, GRIC, and Boingo will cater to travelers by making hotspots easier to find and use. Expect your local/long distance/cellular phone company to try to sell you bundled wireless LAN hotspot access next year.
In early 2003, enterprises will remain cautious about widespread deployment of wireless LANs. For all their success and growth, wireless LANs are still a comparatively immature access technology. Large companies will continue experimenting with wireless LANs, waiting to see whether WPA closes known security holes in Wi-Fi, assessing reliability before running mission critical applications over wireless, and sorting out the merits of 802.11b vs. a vs. g before making company-wide investments in hardware. Watch for industry convergence on solutions to boost wireless LAN deployment in the enterprise during the second half of the year.