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3/17/2008
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Motorola Aims For All-Wireless Enterprise

With new products and initiatives, executive Sujai Hajela predicts that his division will impress the enterprise in the transition to faster 802.11n networks.

Looking to challenge Cisco Systems for supremacy in the wireless enterprise networking market, Motorola last week released two new products -- a wireless LAN switch and an adaptive access point with three radios -- while trumpeting the arrival, at last, of the all-wireless office.

While wireless LAN market statistics from research firm Dell'Oro Group showed the market share of Motorola (which acquired Symbol Technologies, the leading wireless network supplier for "concrete-floor" environments such as warehouses and manufacturing plants, in January 2007) slipping in recent quarters, Sujai Hajela, Motorola's VP and general manager of enterprise wireless networking, predicted that his division will thrive in the transition to faster 802.11n networks.

"We're entering what I call Phase 2 of the wireless enterprise," Hajela said at an event for press and analysts in San Francisco on March 14. "It's really an enterprise network evolution, and Motorola is well-positioned to take advantage of it."

Motorola also said it will launch a line of next-generation voice products under the Total Enterprise Access and Mobility (TEAM) brand, unveiling the new systems at the VoiceCon 2008 conference this week in Orlando, Fla.

Speaking at the San Francisco event, Gartner mobile and wireless analyst Michael King noted that, in a tough environment for overall IT spending, revenue from wireless LANs increased 21% from 2006 to 2007 and that wireless spending overall will increase from 10% to 14% yearly for the next few years.

Cisco, which dominates the market for enterprise wireless network equipment, has seen its market share slip slightly over the last year, according to Gartner, with Aruba Networks and Motorola/Symbol adding customers.

Motorola's new product line includes what it calls "the industry's first tri-radio 802.11n access point," the AP-7131, as well as the RFS6000, a multicore processor-based wireless LAN switch aimed specifically at medium-sized businesses.

The arrival of the 802.11n standard, which is expected to be granted final ratification by the IEEE later this year, "enables people to think wireless by default and wired by exception" when installing new office and campus networks, King said.

Taking longer than many vendors and industry analysts expected, the transition to higher-speed 802.11n systems has actually dampened the market's growth, according to Dell'Oro. The wireless LAN market grew by just 4% in the fourth quarter of 2007, the research firm said, "as both the SOHO [small-office/home-office] and enterprise segments were negatively affected by the transition to 802.11n." Revenue was up 10% compared with the same period in 2006.

That hasn't stopped analysts from predicting healthy growth for the segment over the next three to five years, or Motorola from betting heavily on the enterprise wireless sector. Revenue from Motorola's enterprise mobility solutions division, which sells wireless networking gear to businesses, jumped 43% to $7.7 billion in the last quarter, and its operating profit reached $1.2 billion. Meanwhile, the handset division has slipped from the No. 2 worldwide spot to No. 3, behind Nokia and Samsung, and continues to fall.

Corporate investment in the enterprise wireless division has been "on a high upswing," said Hajela.

"What Cisco did for the wired enterprise network, Motorola is looking to do for the wireless enterprise," he added.

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