The rapid acceptance of wireless local area networking (WLan) services in Asia will further delay the launch of third-generation (3G) mobile-phone systems in the region. According to International Data Corp (IDC), the Asia-Pacific WLan market will grow an average 51 per cent a year and be worth US$350 million by 2005 from US$45 million last year. Simon Chew, IDC's senior analyst for Internet protocol and broadband-equipment research, said several service providers were using WLans. Markets leading in WLan include Hong Kong, China, Australia, Singapore and South Korea. Mr Chew said 3G services might be forced to the back burner, giving the technology more time to develop and mature. WLans would see high growth rates because the simplicity and ease of deployment were evident. The popular 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, WLan specification operates on the 2.4-gigahertz frequency and offers as much as 11 megabits per second (Mbps) data speed. Transmission speeds of up to 20 Mbps had been achieved in some industry tests. 3G technologies promise up to 2 Mbps transmission speed. Mr Chew said the 802.11b standard was ratified last year by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which fosters the development of standards that often become national and international standards. According to Cahners In-Stat Group, the release of Wi-Fi-standard products in late 1999 and last year by prominent network equipment and wireless vendors - including Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, 3Com, Intel, Nokia and Ericsson - drove WLan products into wider acceptance. Mike Wolf, In-Stat's director of enterprise and residential communications research, said WLan connections were quickly becoming accepted in mainstream business networks, as well as an important enabling technology for broadband sharing in homes. IDC said one of the technology's key drivers in the region was the emerging managed-WLan service, a subscription-based access service provided to the public by a network operator. Recently, Cisco linked with Internet roaming services specialists GRIC Communications and iPass to promote demand for the high-speed data and mobile location capabilities of WLan in airports, hotels, malls and convention areas. GRIC teams with domestic Internet service providers to increase public demand for WLan via Internet roaming in local markets. Just as the market warms to the possibilities of WLan, the 802.11a standard is on the horizon. It is expected to be ratified this year and will enable transmission speed of 54 Mbps. Mr Chew said WLan could break into new markets such as residential and small office-home office, with new products that combined routing and print-server capabilities with WLan. Jeremy Matthews, Asia-Pacific services manager for information technology analyst Ovum, said seamless 3G connections and applications were years away for Asia, except Japan and South Korea. However, another analyst saw WLan security as having more holes than Swiss cheese. Datamonitor says many companies are failing to implement even basic security on their WLans and the security standard appears inadequate. It urged equipment vendors to improve security of WLan products. In January, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found a person across the street could access a 802.11b network using just an antenna, a laptop and a PC card. The Wired Equivalency Privacy (WEP) standard is the encryption scheme behind 802.11 technology. However, WEP encryption has to be installed manually, and many companies forget. Datamonitor said WEP was not secure. Free software tools such as AirSnort could recover encryption keys used on WLan systems. It suggested companies use multi-layered security, such as running virtual private networking technology.