The combined consumer and enterprise worldwide wireless local area network (WLAN) market increased 1.4% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2015 (4Q15), while declining -0.3% for the full year 2015.
According to the results published in the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly WLAN Tracker, the enterprise segment grew 5.9% year over year in 4Q15, experiencing its best growth quarter of the year, an improvement from the sub-5% growth of the previous three quarters. While 4Q15 represented an improvement, the market grew at a tepid 3.7% for the full year, less than half of what the market experienced in 2014. The current deceleration of the annual growth rate, as compared to previous years, is largely due to the confluence of two factors: a hold on new WLAN projects due to the uncertain short-term trajectory of the global economy, and market anticipation of the full availability of Wave 2 802.11ac products.
The 802.11ac standard continues on its brisk adoption path and now accounts for 54.5% of dependent access point unit shipments and 71.3% of dependent access point revenues, representing a noticeably faster adoption rate from 802.11n than what we saw with the 802.11a/b/g to 802.11n transition several years ago. For the full year 2015, 802.11ac accounted for 51.0% of dependent access point shipments and 66.1% of dependent access point revenues. Increased demand on enterprise WLANs will continue to be a driving factor in this transition, especially as enterprise mobility use cases proliferate and IoT applications move into the mainstream.
Meanwhile, consumer WLAN market revenue declined -3.9% on a year-over-year basis in 4Q15 and by -4.8% for the full year 2015. The adoption of the 802.11ac standard in the consumer market has been significantly slower than in the enterprise segment. In 4Q15, the 802.11ac standard accounted for just 19.3% of shipments and 42.1% of revenue in the consumer category.
“While weaker compared to what was seen prior to 2015, the growth experienced in 4Q15 was higher than that of the previous three quarters,” says Nolan Greene, research analyst, Network Infrastructure at IDC. “Expected fourth quarter refresh cycles were certainly at play here across the world, with organisations preparing for greater digital transformation initiatives in 2016.”