Wireless equipment based on the draft 802.11n standard is making in-roads into small offices despite costing twice as much as existing products.
Between April and July, $25 million worth of routers and interface cards based on 802.11n were sold, according to research company Dell'Oro. And this isn't even the full potential figure as the products only went on sale in the middle of April, said analyst Elmer Choy.
The 802.11n standard is intended to boost the speed and range of wireless LAN gear using multiple antennas. It has sparked some acrimonious debate among vendors and is not expected to be final until some time next year at the earliest. In the meantime, several vendors have rolled out products based on the first draft of the specification.
The new products have a fairly small piece of the market: Draft 802.11n models made up about eight percent of the router market by revenue, and interface cards about six percent. But that is despite an average price of more than double gear using the current 802.11g standard.
An average "draft-N" router costs $86 against $36 for 802.11g routers, said Dell'Oro.
By contrast, when certified 802.11g routers were new in 2003, they commanded 29 percent of the market, but the price premium then was much less: $115 versus $90 for an 802.11b router.
In addition to price, uncertainty over the standard probably also affected second-quarter sales, but Choy expects draft-N sales to accelerate as prices fall during the remainder of the year.
The typical customer is probably an early technology adopter buying the new gear to extend the range of a wireless LAN throughout a home, he said. The speed could also benefit users who exchanges video or other large files around the house.
It's likely draft-N products won't be upgradeable to the final standard once it comes out, but that won't hurt current buyers too much, Choy believes. "The prices are low enough that people can upgrade when the actual standard is approved. It's not like they have hundreds or thousands of clients, like they do in an enterprise."