Wireless networks (WLANs) could bring real benefits to an enterprise and we don't understand why businesses are not buying more of them, are the conclusions from systems integrator and C&W subsidiary ALLnet.

According to the integrator, companies are not buying wireless systems because of their ignorance of the benefits and an exaggeration of the drawbacks, mainly security. ALLnet reckons that commerce's "limited understanding is in direct contrast to the amount of media attention afforded to WLANs and is rendered more curious by the fact that 91 percent of those that have implemented WLANs are satisfied with the benefits brought about by the technology."

However, the survey revealed that, while seven percent of UK businesses have rolled out WLAN technology in significant volume, 21 percent have WLAN pilots under way, and 16 percent are planning to implement at some point in the future, making a total of 44 percent -- a significant proportion. Just over half, 56 percent, have no plans to implement a WLAN.

In a bid to counter the perceived problem, ALLnet has generated a white paper which punts the advantages of WLANs and explains how their disadvantages can be overcome, along with a section on deployment issues. The company's research suggests that the three main barriers to implementing a WLAN are: having no clear view of the benefits (48 percent of respondents), security concerns (35 percent) and budgetary constraints (32 percent).

Articles and features explaining WLAN business benefits are not hard to find with a little googling. Similarly, the barriers to WLAN adoption are easy to locate and it would appear that more of the disadvantages are striking home at the moment. In particular, Alan Wright, wireless architecture chief at ALLnet, said that his life "would be made a lot easier" when the next set of standards including protocols such as TKIP arrives, as it is due to do in the next year. As Wright pointed out, Cisco needs to keep saying things like, "it would take 34 million years to crack a TKIP-protected WLAN." in the meantime, Wright reckoned that the short-term future of WLANs is likely to be "push rather than simple growth".

Wright added, “I am a firm believer in the advantages that WLAN technology can provide to many different organisations. There are certain environments, call centres being an obvious example, where the desk and the workplace are synonymous. However, work is increasingly regarded as an activity rather than a location, and hence almost any business can benefit from a WLAN."

The survey was conducted on behalf of ALLnet in June 2003 by research specialists Vanson Bourne, who interviewed 100 IT managers from companies with more than £50m annual turnover (of which 50 percent were from companies with more than £250m annual turnover).