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'Wi-Fi growth and adoption will surpass that of the mobile era'

'Wi-Fi growth and adoption will surpass that of the mobile era'

The scale and speed with which Wi-Fi will grow in South Africa will outdo expectations. That is the message from Andile Ngcaba, chairperson of the recently formed Wi-Fi Forum SA.

Speaking to ITWeb Africa after the organisation's inaugural Conference held in Johannesburg earlier this month, Ngcaba said despite ubiquitous broadband access being a long way off, he believes in the next five years there will be a "dramatic increase in the amount of Wi-Fi access points across the country" and all major metropolitan cities will be covered.

"I think we will underestimate the scale and speed with which Wi-Fi will grow in South Africa and I am confident that it will surpass the dramatic growth and adoption we saw in the mobile era," he said.

Ngcaba believes the only way to realise the Internet of Things(IoT) future, based on ubiquitous broadband, is to use Wi-Fi connectivity as a reliable, low-cost access medium. The biggest challenge, according to the Forum, is access to rural communities.

Ngcaba said the country is also making progress in the deployment of FTTx, with fibre rollout across suburbs in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg reflecting a strong move towards FTTH.

"This follows the emergence of national long distance fibre deployments by both public and private sector players that looked at addressing the gaps in our national backhaul network. South Africa is still some way off in terms of wide scale fibre deployment in comparison to other emerging and developed markets, however I am confident that we will close this gap as competition increases and price points continue to drop," he added.

In terms of the rest of Africa, Ngcaba said the biggest challenge in evaluating success is the limited availability of accurate data. "However, based on my on the ground experience we are witnessing a revolution on the Continent with regard to fibre roll out. We have to bear in mind that there is patchy application of minimum standards and this leads to fibre cuts and inability to place reliance on quality of infrastructure being deployed. However, I would like state that there is more good news than bad. Africa is definitely on a growth trajectory with regard to the wide scale deployment of quality fibre."

Ngcaba said that like many technology developments, Wi-Fi is dependent on the participation of the global technology industry in developing standards and testing business models.

"As a Forum, we will be failing our members if we do not participate in the debates with regard to these global technology standards. In the case of the Wi-Fi forum, we have started discussions with the Wireless Broadband Alliance to serve as their Africa representative/partner and to leverage their knowledge base and networks to keep current with developments internationally. It is critical that we actively participate in these forums to make our voices heard and ensure that the needs of Africa are considered in setting these international standards," he continued.

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