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Bringing Wi-Fi to Africa

June 21st, 2017
Yesterday marked the inaugural World Wi-Fi Day – a day celebrated around the globe to recognise the significant role Wi-Fi has played in getting the world connected. RIAAN GRAHAM, sales director for Ruckus Networks sub-Saharan Africa, takes a look at why Africa should widely adopt Wi-Fi.
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Some industry pundits see a dim future for Wi-Fi. They cite the rise of “unlimited” LTE cellular data plans and competition from technologies, like LTE-U. However, if you take an in-depth look at these new developments, you will understand why Wi-Fi is actually experiencing an upsurge.

Let’s take a look at why Africa should widely adopt Wi-Fi.

Unlimited mobile data plans and easy-to-access communications with no passwords are what consumers want. However, “unlimited” is never, truly, “unlimited.” If you look closely, you’ll discover that full-speed service may be guaranteed only during the billing period and up to a certain data capacity. After that capacity, has been exceeded, which happens quickly on multi-user family plans, customers experience throttling—the method where bandwidth is reduced and performance slows down noticeably.

The promise of high-performance access to unlimited data is also an unsustainable business model for carriers. As demand grows, carriers find that they need to expand their networks. Building a single LTE cell tower can cost millions. While these towers provide great coverage, capacity is limited, not making it a viable solution. Wi-Fi, a cost-effective and widely adopted solution, becomes the technology of choice in these situations.

In fact, it is anticipated that over 20 billion Wi-Fi chipsets will ship between 2016 and 2021. Wi-Fi devices are also more cost effective to develop because chipsets require less silicon, in higher volumes. Additionally, chipsets for LTE devices can cost 5 to 10 times more, with licensing fees added on top of the development costs.

Riaan Graham

Riaan Graham

Even more, enterprises in various sectors depend on Wi-Fi for their local area networks (LANs). Wi-Fi is designed to service LANs, while LTE is best used in wide-area networks (WANs). Additionally, with the advent of 802.11ac Wave 2 and 802.11ax, Wi-Fi is making rapid improvements in performance, security, seamless hotspot connections, and the ability to handle more users in high-density environments.

According to market research, the world Wi-Fi market size is expected1 to grow to $33.6 billion by 2020, with an estimated CAGR of 17.8% from 2015. This statistic makes South Africa (SA) and Africa an optimal region to adopt Wi-Fi at a more rapid pace. Currently in SA, there is 1 hotspot for every 6160 people. The global average is 1 hotspot for every 150. As Wi-Fi continues to be one of the most viable and cost-effective connectivity solutions to meet Africa’s increasing bandwidth demands, there are initiatives to increase the adoption of Wi-Fi in the region.

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Africa is already using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) investment to power its economy to reap more benefits. In fact, government and private sectors are taking bold steps to fast track the process. There are also direct foreign investments into key ICT initiatives across Africa. Additionally, home-grown innovation and new disruptive models, fueled by Wi-Fi and connectivity, are opening new opportunities.

Demands are changing. Expectations are shifting. The time for Wi-Fi time is now.

Happy World Wi-Fi Day!

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