NEARLY HALF of IT channel companies say their SMB customers are using wireless technology that is at least eight years old. Eight. Years. Old.
Ironic, given that the same IDC survey containing that insight, The Wave 2 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Opportunity for Channel Partners, sponsored by Linksys, also finds that 54 percent of small businesses consider wireless networks to be an important part of their company networking environments. Unfortunately, says Wayne Newton, director of B2B channel sales at Linksys, that’s as much as the typical SMB knows about Wi-Fi. “Most business owners aren’t that versed in the technology,” he notes. “We get requests for products that don’t even exist anymore.”
So much has changed since 2009, he says, but SMBs are “still trying to shove all this stuff through this router that was meant to wirelessly print and do some email.”
That gap represents opportunity, Newton says, but more education is required. Partners tend to view Wi-Fi as an add-on to something they’re already selling. “We’re trying to elevate awareness that you can sell Wi-Fi as a primary,” Newton says.
The good news is that 4 in 5 channel partners surveyed expect a 25 percent increase in 2017 in the number of Wi-Fi connected devices used by their SMB customers, with network performance improvement and new use cases offering the biggest selling opportunities, according to the IDC/Linksys study.
Almost half expect most of those customers to upgrade access points, devices, or routers to the 802.11ac wireless standard in the next 12 months, moreover. However, the percentage of upgrades expected to be the newer 802.11ac Wave 2 technology only slightly exceeds the percentage expected to be Wave 1. Wave 2 of the wireless spec offers Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) support, plus faster speeds and enhanced performance.
Newton says the price differential to go with Wave 2 “and really future-proof your business” is not that significant. But, he says, “It’s a big challenge to get channel partners and resellers to take that extra step. We’ve been building out our messaging and marketing to help make that conversation an easier one.”
According to the research, nearly 9 in 10 respondents say the ability to deliver advanced Wi-Fi technology to SMBs, including MU-MIMO, is important or very important, and roughly 70 percent consider themselves knowledgeable about MU-MIMO (the figure is slightly higher for those that focus on firms with 50+ employees).
As advanced networking evolves, Newton anticipates that “people will be looking at wireless networking and networking equipment in general as less a cost [item] and more of a value.”