Wi-Fi to be mobile broadband standard in SA

2014-06-23 14:57 - Duncan Alfreds, Fin24
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LG Electronics unveils Optimus G smartphones in Seoul. (Lee Jin-man.)

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Cape Town - Wi-Fi is soon to become the standard network for broadband as demand for data spikes and more people access the internet, says an insider.

South Africa is experiencing a network crunch as demand for data grows, but there is a lack of spectrum - particularly in the area of high speed access of Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks.

"Wi-Fi has the potential to become different standards to different sorts of people, both commercial and public," Andre Bezuidenhout CEO of Ctrlroom told Fin24.

He said that while telcos relay on the technology to offload data from their networks to avoid congestion, it is consumers who are demanding public Wi-Fi access.

"Consumers are evermore expecting free Wi-Fi access, internet connectivity and data, whether bundled with their cellular contracts or available at the places they purchase from. These are just some examples of the many ways that Wi-Fi is standardising approaches to a number of market challenges and opportunities."

Free Wi-Fi projects

A number of municipalities and even private companies are moving to meet that demand, especially as data grows exponentially.

The City of Tshwane has a stated goal of blanketing the city with Wi-Fi coverage and has been successfully rolling out free Wi-Fi access for citizens.

"Tshwane has made history by becoming the first metro to roll out free Wi-Fi and indeed our announcement of the provision of this service was made before the City of New York's announcement - this is indeed a ground-breaking achievement for an African city," Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said in his State of the Capital City Address.


Mobile data growth is expected to boom in developing countries as more people access the internet on smart devices. (Jeff Chiu, AP)

In her State of the Province Address, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille promised that the province would see universal internet coverage in a deal signed with Neotel.

"Neotel has therefore generously committed to funding the infrastructure rollout of 384 Wi-Fi hotspots, using Western Cape Government buildings, which will cover almost every ward in the province.  Our government will be subsidising the free portion of citizens' internet access," Zille said.

Spectrum

Global mobile operator Orange has also partnered with African Eagle Tourism to provide free Wi-Fi services within their fleet of vehicles. The service is primarily directed at tourists who value connectivity when visiting Cape Town.

"What we see is that the expectation for data is huge and there is a great increase of demand concerning the data," Sèbastien Crozier, Orange Horizons CEO told Fin24.

The lack of spectrum in the key 800MHz range has made Wi-Fi attractive and the delay in moving terrestrial broadcasters has negatively impacted on the ability of mobile operators to rollout out true 4G networks.

President Jacob Zuma said in his State of the Nation Address that internet infrastructure was a national priority.

"We will expand, modernise and increase the affordability of information and communications infrastructure and electronic communication services, including broadband and digital broadcasting," Zuma said.

According to data from Ericsson's Mobile Data Traffic Growth report for 2013 to 2019, the Sub-Saharan region's data appetite is huge and expected to grow at 65% to 2019 and beyond.

Put into perspective, mobile data in the region was at 37 000 terabytes (TB) per month in 2013, and that will jump to 76 000TB by the end of 2014, on its way to a mammoth 764 000TB by the end of 2019.


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Read more about: jacob zuma  |  broadband  |  internet  |  mobile

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