The global Wi-Fi market is expected to grow by 65 per cent to reach US$25.2 billion by 2026. As wireless installations expand, so does the complexity of deploying and managing the technology.
In response, network professionals are demanding smarter, more automated networks that reduce complexity, while providing actionable intelligence for quick problem resolution.
IDC says that growth in the enterprise wireless local area network (WLAN) market is being driven by the introduction of 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6 which delivers faster speeds and increased reliability over Wi-Fi 5.
Wi-Fi 6 currently makes up more than 60 per cent of current WLAN sales, while Wi-Fi 6E products, designed specifically for dense environments like stadiums and offices, are also shipping. And Wi-Fi 7, which promises even faster speeds and better performance, is on the horizon.
In evaluating vendors for this list, we focused on companies that are adding intelligence to their Wi-Fi systems, provide cloud-based management, offer smooth integration with Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and have a solid roadmap for migrating customers to future generations of Wi-Fi technology.
1. Cisco / Meraki: The undisputed market leader
Why They’re Here: Cisco is the runaway WLAN leader with a 40 per cent market share between its Catalyst and Meraki product lines. Cisco’s CleanAir management system is integrated into its access points to help reduce radio interference and detect rogue devices that are then automatically isolated from the network, dynamically protecting against performance issues and wireless attacks on the network.
The Cisco DNA Center uses AI/ML to improve the efficiency and increase performance of the network while easing the complexity of network management through automation and analytics.
Power Moves: Cisco has reportedly offered to buy Splunk, which produces software for searching, monitoring, and analysing machine-generated data, for $20 billion in what would be the networking giant’s biggest acquisition ever. However, it’s not clear if the deal will go through.
By the numbers: Cisco's enterprise WLAN revenues increased 22.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021 and rose 14.2 per cent for the full year, according to IDC.
Outlook: Cisco’s extensive portfolio of products support the Wi-Fi 5, WI-FI 6 and 6E standards, along with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for IoT deployments. Cisco’s broad geographic presence, robust R&D investments, and strategic alliances are its greatest strengths. In contrast, supply chain issues leading to delays in order fulfillments remain a cause for concern in the short-term.
2. Hewlett Packard Enterprise / Aruba: Cloud-based analytics that leverage AI and machine learning
Why They’re Here: HPE-Aruba is a power player with a 13 per cent market share, according to IDC. HPE-Aruba delivers a wide portfolio of Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and 6E access points. Their cloud-based ESP product uses the telemetry collected from the network to apply AI/ML to identify issues and implement corrective actions in real time. The platform allows flexibility in managing the network through either on-premises, cloud-based or as Network as a Service (NaaS) offerings.
Power Moves: In July 2020, HPE acquired Silver Peak, an SD-WAN leader, in a transaction valued at $925 million to integrate into the Aruba business unit, expanding its strength in the market.
By The Numbers: HPE-Aruba revenues rose 9.9 per cent year over year in the fourth quarter of 2021 and increased 14 per cent for the full year, according to IDC.
Outlook: HPE finds itself at the centre of the explosion of data at the network edge, the demand for cloud everywhere, and the need to generate valuable insights from collected data. HPE's edge-to-cloud strategy positions the company to take advantage of these trends and expand its share of these markets.
3. CommScope (Ruckus): Just ask Melissa for real-time insights
Why They’re Here: CommScope is a major player in the event venues and campus networks markets. Core business segment sales (which exclude home networks) increased 13 per cent year-over-year and the company holds a five per cent overall share of the Enterprise WLAN market.
The Ruckus SmartZone and Cloud product lines provide an analytics service powered by AI/ML to automatically classifying service incidents by severity, while providing root cause analysis and recommending solutions to remediate the problem. The Melissa virtual network assistant uses AI to provide real-time insights into network operations using natural language queries.
Power Moves: CommScope has announced its intention to spin off its home network division so it can focus on the enterprise market.
By The Numbers: The company ended 2021 with a 24 per cent increase in net sales in their venue and campus network business.
Outlook: CommScope provides a wide array of networking offerings from enterprise wireless to broadband content distribution. The company recently announced plans to delay the spin-off of its home network division due to market conditions, but remains committed to the long-term strategic goal of focusing on its core enterprise portfolio.
4. Extreme Networks: Carving out a power position at sports venues
Why They’re Here: Extreme Networks has been listed as a Leader on the Gartner Magic Quadrant for wired and wireless infrastructure for the past four years. Extreme supports Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 and the emerging Wi-Fi 6e standards through their 4000 Series wireless access points.
The ExtremeCloud IQ provides single pane of glass management console using AI/ML to identify problems and suggest resolutions as they happen. ExtremeCloud IQ can be deployed as an on-premise appliance or virtual appliance on the cloud.
Power Moves: Extreme’s Wi-Fi platform was used to manage 70,000 connected fans at the 2022 Super Bowl held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
By The Numbers: Extreme reported second quarter revenue of $280.9 million, up 16 per cent year-over-year and five per cent quarter-over-quarter.
Outlook: Extreme Networks provides a cloud-based approach to network management using AI/ML in their CoPilot product to identify problems and automatically act upon detected changes from the network's baseline environment. Extreme is the vendor of choice for the NFL, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, and The Manchester United Football Club.
5. Fortinet: Focused on security
Why They’re Here: Fortinet is a security company, and that focus is reflected in their FortiSwitch and Secure Wireless LAN products. Their proprietary technology and integrated FortiOS platform emphasise security across all potential attack surfaces from the cloud to the data centre to the endpoint.
Power Moves: In September 2021, Fortinet committed to providing free cybersecurity training for 1 million people to help bring urgently needed skills to the technology industry.
By The Numbers: Fortinet reported total 2021 revenue of $3.34 billion, up 29 per cent year-over-year.
Outlook: In a world where a sound cybersecurity posture is critical to the viability of the enterprise, Fortinet makes deployment and management of Wi-Fi networks secure through a cloud-hosted interface that unifies the network, security, and application management.
6. Allied Telesis: Cost-effective, experienced Wi-Fi provider
Why They’re Here: Gartner reports that Allied Telesis “delivers one of the most cost-effective enterprise-grade networking solutions on the market,” with solid automation tools that enable simplified policy enforcement, automated traffic shaping, application identification and prioritisation. Allied Telesis has the simplicity to be attractive to midsize enterprises, but the features, functionality and performance options to scale up to large-enterprise network deployments, according to Gartner.
Power Moves: In June 2021, Allied Telesis won the Fortress Cyber Security Award in the fiercely competitive Network Security category.
By The Numbers: In fiscal 2021, worldwide net sales were up 13.2 per cent year-over-year. Overall net sales in the Americas were up 18.9 per cent year-over-year.
Outlook: Allied Telesis offers a suite of Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 products for indoor and outdoor deployment, Vista Manager EX Unified Network Management and Monitoring Platform, and AMF-Sec Controller, enabling automated endpoint security policies. With 60 per cent of its revenues currently coming from Japan, Allied Telesis has growth opportunities in new markets.
7. Arista: A vendor with a vision
Why They’re Here: Described as a visionary in Gartner’s latest evaluation of wired/wireless network providers, Arista Networks is a powerhouse in data-driven, client-to-cloud networking for large data centre and campus environments. In 2021, Arista expanded its Cognitive Campus with the latest generation Wi-Fi 6E technology to meet enterprise IoT and collaborative application requirements.
Power Moves: In 2021, Arista integrated its Awake Security acquisition, which provides network-wide visibility, threat detection and containment to improve its ability to provide a more complete campus security portfolio.
By The Numbers: Arista ended 2021 with revenue of $2.95 billion, an increase of 27.2 per cent compared to 2020.
Outlook: Arista has a significant footprint in data centres with its spine and leaf technology and is finding its way into the campus network. Arista has taken a cloud-native approach to enterprise WI-FI, providing Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 Access Points. Their access points also act as a wireless intrusion prevention (WIPS) sensors to detect and block threats instantly.
8. Cambium: Wi-Fi is in their DNA
Why they’re here: As a pure-play wireless vendor, Cambium offers a Wi-Fi continuum from wireless LANs to wireless broadband (point-to-point and point-to-multipoint). Cambium was spun out of Motorola in 2011 and then bought the Xirrus Wi-Fi business from Riverbed in 2019. Today, Cambium works with network operators in education, healthcare, industrial campuses and municipalities to deliver end-to-end wireless services.
Power Moves: In January, Cambium launched software-defined Wi-Fi 6E solutions that triple access point capacity.
By The Numbers: Cambium delivered 2021 revenues of $335.9 million, an increase of 21 per cent over 2020. Enterprise Wi-Fi revenues grew 67 per cent year-over-year.
Outlook: As the 5G market continues to grow, Cambium is well-positioned to leverage its technical expertise in all things wireless to provide a cloud-native wireless fabric that encompasses Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity.
9. Juniper: Integrating AI across wired and wireless product lines
Why They’re Here: Legacy networking vendor Juniper is focused on integrating technology from its acquisition of Mist Systems, an innovator in cloud-based, AI-driven WLAN management, across its WLAN and wired switching portfolio.
Mist AIOps offers management and visibility into the state of the network, application performance, end-user experience metrics and real-time measurement of various targeted SLA compliance metrics. Network administrators can troubleshoot common network issues by using natural language queries through Marvis, a virtual network assistant offering that is part of the Juniper Mist Cloud.
Power Moves: In February, Juniper announced the acquisition of WiteSand, a pioneer of cloud-native Zero Trust Network Access Control (NAC) solutions.
By The Numbers: For 2021, net revenues were $4.7 billion, an increase of seven per cent over 2020.
Outlook: Juniper was named a "Leader" in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Indoor Location Services, as well as in the 2021 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure. The cloud-based Mist WxLAN product portfolio offers WI-FI 6 and WI-FI 5 access points for indoor and outdoor deployments, with most supporting Bluetooth Low Energy. In November 2021, Juniper added AI-driven Wi-Fi 6E access points and IoT Assurance to their portfolio of wireless devices.
10. Ubiquiti: Rapid growth slowed by supply chain woes
Why They’re Here: With an eight per cent market share, Ubiquiti is one of the power players in enterprise Wi-Fi. Ubiquiti provides a broad line of access points and switches for both indoor and outdoor deployments, including their UniFi line, which is focused on home, consumer, business wired, and wireless networking. The AirMax product line is dedicated to creating point-to-point (PTP) and point-to-multi-point (PtMP) links between networks.
Power Moves: Ubiquiti’s enterprise revenue skyrocketing by 51.3 per cent t in 2021 ($842.5 million to $1.3 billion), primarily due to product line expansion and further adoption of their UniFi technology platform across all regions.
By The Numbers: In fiscal 2021, Ubiquiti reported total revenues of $1.9 billion, up 47.8 per cent from 2020.
Outlook: Ubiquity’s rapid growth has been slowed by the pandemic and the resulting supply chain crunch. The company reported recently that “our future results are dependent on our ability to procure components and services and we expect the company’s results to be negatively impacted until the ongoing supply chain and logistics issues are resolved.”