A combination of Wi-Fi and WiMAX will ultimately provide ubiquitous mobility for enterprises, particularly as the cost benefits for WiMAX are realized and coverage is rolled out, says Forrester Research.

For enterprises WiMAX will eventually emerge as the replacement for cellular data services based on 2.5G and 3G technologies because of its potential for lower-cost deployment, higher bandwidth and a lower end user price tag, Forrester says. However, the technology is not expected to gain traction in the enterprise for at least two years.

Forrester, which surveyed 1,033 telecom decision makers at North American and European enterprises in 1Q07, found that despite the huge delay in WiMAX adoption 39 percent of those surveyed expressed some level of interest in WiMAX adoption.

"Expect WiMAX to see wider deployment than cellular data, which is currently relegated to large urban areas," Forrester says. "Cellular data networks, which are currently relegated to filling in the gaps between WLAN access locations, will ultimately be outmoded by WiMAX, which will offer wider swaths of connectivity and will be more cost-effective, despite its minuscule 6 percent adoption by enterprises."

In North America and Europe, the public sector is the unrivaled leader for in-house WLAN adoption, with 68 percent of firms already using it, Forrester says. WLAN adoption is particularly strong in the North American enterprise market, where it boasts a 59 percent adoption rate. European enterprises lag behind, with a 46 percent adoption rate, though the data suggests a continued trend toward more widespread adoption.

Far from going away, WLANs will increase in complexity, becoming more widely deployed in enterprises, Forrester says. "The resiliency of these networks will also increase as mobile operations professionals begin to plan for voice and real-time location-based services, using these services as justification for infrastructure expenditures in the near-term," the research firm states.

IT vendors that take an early lead in offering devices with 802.11 and Wi-Fi radios or those that offer WiMAX-enabled devices when they become available will emerge as favorites of the well-connected enterprise, Forrester says.