Wireless networking to rule in schools and hospitals

Doctors and teachers could be the next group to fall under Wi-Fi 's spell, according to the latest research

The public sector will play a leading role in driving the take-up of wireless networking over the next three years.

That's a key finding from the latest research from analyst group Datamonitor, which predicts strong growth for Europe's enterprise wireless local area network (LAN) market by 2006.

According to the report, wireless LANs will become much more prevalent in both the education and healthcare sectors, as organisations attempt to make employees more productive and better connected.

"Schools and universities will continue to deploy WLANs as a classroom teaching tool and to improve communication for staff and students. Hospitals will equip doctors with WLAN-enabled devices to improve levels of patient care," predicts Datamonitor.

Because wireless LANs mean employees can link to the corporate network without having to sit at their PC, they can facilitate flexible working -- which can increase efficiency and productivity -- and reduce the amount of office space needed by a company.

Datamonitor predicts that the financial and professional services sectors will soon embrace Wi-Fi for these reasons, although IT managers in these companies may have particular concerns about the security of Wi-Fi networks.

As ZDNet UK reported last week, private sector bosses can be reluctant to authorise the necessary investment to make a wireless network secure. But the security of patient or pupil records would need to be treated just as seriously as that of a financial service.

Currently, America leads the way with the largest single Wi-Fi market. According to Datamonitor, Europe is between a year and 18 months behind the US, but is catching up as Wi-Fi becomes more popular.

The report, titled Wireless LANs: Wi-Fi revenue opportunities by vertical market and geography to 2006, forecasts that the global enterprise wireless LAN market will be worth over £766m by 2006, compared to £383m in 2002.