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Carrier Wi-Fi should be Open Access

The Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA) congratulates one of its members, Internet Solutions, on the recent launch of its open access carrier-grade Wi-Fi network at the Cradlestone Mall in Mogale City near the Cradle of Humankind.


‘Carrier-grade’ is an industry term referring to Wi-Fi networks that are on par with mobile networks in terms of speed and reliability. The industry has been abuzz lately with talk of carrier-grade Wi-Fi and mobile carrier ‘offload’ to Wi-Fi, which delivers data services to the user’s smartphone seamlessly via Wi-Fi, rather than via a mobile technology like 3G or LTE.


Wi-Fi is in fact a wholly complementary technology to mobile technologies and WAPA expects to see a massive growth in carrier Wi-Fi in South Africa in 2014 and beyond.


Wi-Fi uses licence-exempt spectrum, which is highly prone to interference when there are multiple Wi-Fi networks in the same physical location. The most reliable and cost-effective way for multiple parties to provide Wi-Fi services in the same space, is to create a wholesale open access Wi-Fi network, for data provisioning and value-added services alike. Best-of-breed solutions delivering both value to venues, such as predictive analytics, and value to customers, like location-based loyalty solutions, will spread faster if network operators opt to wholesale their network.


According to WAPA Deputy Chairperson and Wi-Fi champion Ellie Hagopian, “Licence-exempt spectrum should remain just that, and not become the playground of incumbents who use their size to buy multi-year exclusive leases in key areas for self-utilisation or in order to partner with incumbents to use licence-exempt Wi-Fi solely for 'offload' from licensed bands. On the other hand, open access networks such as at the Cradlestone Mall benefit the entire industry.”


Just as building a carrier-grade network is far from straightforward, to provide open access in a secure, reliable manner requires understanding and complying with best practices. WAPA plans to lead a cross-industry collaboration in 2014 to define both technical and business best practices for open access carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks. More details on this will be forthcoming early next year.


WAPA has taken notice of the recent formation of the Wi-Fi Forum of South Africa and applauds its aims, which are aligned with WAPA’s own. Mohammad Patel, WAPA Chairperson, calls on the Wi-Fi Forum to collaborate with WAPA to promote open access, going further to state: “We call on any members of the Wi-Fi Forum that are not WAPA members to join our community, so that collectively we can promote industry best practices and lobby for open access.”

Client Press Offices

SAPA South African Payroll Association (SAPA)


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