Wireless Equipment Top Performers

Thursday May 15th 2003 by Eric Griffith
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The first quarter of 2003 might have been the worst ever for WLAN equipment markers, especially in the home and SOHO market — which is saying something since the market still had a growth of about 2 percent. That might not have been the case if not for a phenomenal sales increase by Linksys.

Research companies are now starting to report on the numbers for revenue and unit sales of wireless local area network (WLAN) products for the first quarter of 2003. So far the worldwide totals are showing low growth in revenue due to the price declines we've come to love and that the companies can't avoid. But that growth might have turned into a loss if it hadn't been for one company: Linksys.

Both Dell'Oro Group and Synergy Research Group have Linksys pegged as the overall winner for Q1. Dell'Oro's 1Q03 Quarterly Wireless LAN Report says the provider of home and small business networking products jumped up 18 percnet from the final quarter of 2002; Synergy's Worldwide Market Shares report has the Linksys growth even higher at 26.1 percent.

With sales according to Synergy for the quarter at $81 million dollars (up from $64 million during last years holiday season), Linksys not only is the top small office and home office (SOHO) WLAN equipment provider, it's the number one money maker overall. It's even beating enterprise equipment provider Cisco Systems with $68 million in revenue for the quarter.

This, of course, is great news for Cisco: they are buying Linksys, an acquisition that should be finalized before the end of the year. Cisco is still number one in the enterprise market, up from this time last year but down 0.4 percent from Q4 2002.

"[Linksys's] aggressive pricing, rebates, and more fueled the great quarter," says Aaron Vance, analyst at Synergy. "They were first to market with 802.11g and were aggressive with pricing." While the 11g products — based on the draft for the 802.11g specification — didn't ship in the same quantities as the slower but better known 802.11b, he says it helped push the prices on 11b products down even more.

"If you add [Cisco and Linksys] together, you can see what that acquisition is going to do to Cisco's market share. They'll be on top on the high end, the low end, and overall," says Vance.

Other changes for companies according to Synergy's worldwide numbers include revenue growth for enterprise vendor Avaya (up 61 percent to $10.3 million) and 3Com (up 7 percent to $15.1 million), but a 14 percent decrease for Enterasys.

On the SOHO side, D-Link had been bolstered by its final quarter last year, coming within just four-tenths of Linksys's 21 percent marketshare, but Linksys shattered that for 2003 so far. Linksys commands 27.9 percent of the market share revenue, followed by Buffalo Technology at 15.9 percent, D-Link at 15.7 percent, and Netgear at 15 percent. (A large amount of the SOHO market — almost 20 percent of the revenue — is taken up by the category of "other" which Vance says are companies that do not report their sales numbers to the researchers, such as Microsoft.)

D-Link's slip in the rank comes with a slip in revenue (down 7.7 percent to $45.8 million) -- though to show how slippery the numbers truly are, Dell'Oro says the company gained 6 percent.

In Voice over IP WLAN products (wireless phones), Synergy says Spectralink continues to dominate in a field where only it and Symbol Technologies have been players. Look for that to change by the end of the year as Cisco, NEC, and others have announced 802.11-based phones.

"I would think Cisco would be competitive out of the gate, but they won't shoot into number one," says Vance. "Spectralink has key relationships with other vendors ... they'll be the top player in handset for most of 2003."

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