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Report: Wi-Fi to supersede wired Ethernet

Analysts suggest that 802.11n Wi-Fi will start replacing wired Ethernet within the next two to three years.

Wi-Fi will start replacing wired Ethernet within the next two to three years, as users and applications go mobile, an IT analyst group has claimed.

In a report comparing gigabit Ethernet with the latest version of Wi-Fi, 802.11n, Burton Group suggests that companies should begin making plans for switching their local-area networks (LANs) from wired to wireless.

The new 802.11n standard "will put pervasive mobility on the fast track," Burton analyst Paul DeBeasi said Tuesday.

"IT professionals should start thinking now about how they will deploy, maintain and benefit from an all-wireless LAN."

In the report, DeBeasi claimed that 802.11n would make serious inroads into wired Ethernet's market within 24 to 36 months.

DeBeasi listed several reasons for the switch to 802.11n, including growing numbers of laptop users, increased use of mobile applications and the deployment of voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

He also suggested that users consider the switch, if they found "fast Ethernet"--the current widely deployed standard, as opposed to the new gigabit Ethernet standard--to offer sufficient throughput for their needs. Fast Ethernet offers a theoretical maximum throughput of 100 megabits per second, while 802.11n offers a maximum of 248Mbps.

"One can analyze the differences between 802.11n and Ethernet with regard to performance, security, manageability, cost and impact on staff," DeBeasi said. "However, the definitive and unalterable competitive advantage that 802.11n has over Ethernet is pervasive mobility."

DeBeasi added that, while recent advances in radio design, security and wireless management would soon make 802.11n the preferred LAN access technology, wired Ethernet would continue to be necessary in switch trunks and data center networks for many years to come.

The new version of 802.11n promises higher throughput, and better range and bandwidth, than its predecessors. However, the standard's ratification has been a controversial affair, with final approval by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) poised to come as late as 2009.

As a result of that delay, the Wi-Fi Alliance, the nonprofit formed to certify interoperability between Wi-Fi products, began certifying equipment conforming to the draft standard earlier this year in a bid to give customers, particularly those in the consumer sector, some confidence in the interoperability of various vendors' 802.11n devices.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.