New SA Research Highlights Growing Demand for ‘Wi-Fi Everywhere’

Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS company, and World Wide Worx today released the results of their “2018 Wi-Fi in South Africa” study which highlights the usage, priorities, intentions and attitudes regarding Wi-Fi technology and its deployment in Smart Cities.

“The research reveals the growing importance of Wi-Fi for both business use and local Smart City project roll-outs,” said Arthur Goldstuck, managing director at World Wide Worx. “While the need for Wi-Fi is growing, there are still a few hurdles that South Africa need to overcome if we are to truly reap the benefits of pervasive connectivity.”

Wi-Fi is Critical in Corporations

The research shows that 97% of corporations and 95% of small businesses use Wi-Fi internally, with over half of these respondents stating the need for Wi-Fi access everywhere as very important. This statistic indicates that Wi-Fi has become critical to employee activity and further demonstrates the trends for small businesses are in line with larger enterprises.

However, despite the enthusiasm for pervasive Wi-Fi, large businesses in South Africa limit out-of-office use, solely depending on in-house use.

  • Half of the respondents said their entire staff are using Wi-Fi internally, with the rest reporting a sliding scale
  • External use, on the other hand, flipped this trend around, with 59% saying they did not allow external use of Wi-Fi to access the corporate network, with a sliding scale declining to 13% saying they allowed all staff to access the network from external Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi Quality is More Important than Cost

It is a common misconception that, when making a purchasing decision, businesses consider the low cost of a provider’s service above all else. This study shows that this is untrue for Wi-Fi services. Here are our findings for cost, quality, speed and constant connectivity for Wi-Fi:

  • 94% of respondents ranked quality of Wi-Fi connection to be the most important factor, followed by speed and constant connectivity ranked both at 92%
  • Cost ranked last out of the four options – at 81%
  • 93% of respondents said all four factors, quality of connection, speed, constant connectivity and cost were equally important

Our findings for uses of Wi-Fi indicated the following:

  • 86% of large businesses predominantly use Wi-Fi for IoT security and monitoring, 80% for connection to the intranet and 70% for cloud integration and adoption
  • Small businesses use Wi-Fi predominantly for connection to the Internet and Intranet (95%), followed by cloud adoption and IoT integration

These findings suggest that larger enterprises have more clearly defined needs and uses for Wi-Fi.

Respondents were also given the option to rank from 1-10 (with 10 being highest) the level of importance for various features when selecting a service provider. Here are our findings:

  • The most important criteria was Quality of Service at 94%
  • This was followed by Maintenance and Support at 92%
  • 83% of respondents ranked price as important, but it was only seventh on the overall list

These findings suggest the criticality of quality and service for Wi-Fi deployments. It is clear that most large businesses would rather pay more for a better service, underlining the fact that Wi-Fi has become mission-critical in the corporate environment.

Recognising the Value of Smart Cities

While South Africa is still a long way from having a true Smart City, business decision-makers have a strong awareness of its benefits and 95% believed that wider availability of Wi-Fi would contribute to a Smart City strategy. When asked what the major benefits are of Smart Cities, more than a third cited boosting the economy, while a similar proportion saw it attracting new businesses. Just under a third said it would reduce operating costs.

However, a significant proportion (75.5%) of businesses don’t feature Smart City projects in their budgets. Since Smart Cities is a relatively new concept and no South African city has a clear programme in place to achieve this, the 24.5% proportion of businesses who budget for Smart Cities can be considered relatively high. Even more, a substantial proportion (37.8%) of companies expect to have a budget for Smart City projects in the future.

Barriers to Smart Cities

Our findings for Smart Cities barriers include:

  • 76% of respondents indicated that fibre infrastructure is the biggest tech barrier to Smart Cities roll-out. This was followed by the lack of an IoT eco-system, no unified view for the city and infrastructure stability
  • Approximately 20% of respondents found the barrier to Smart Cities were non-technology related with the lack of funding cited by 71% of respondents
  • This was followed by the cost of access at 40%

These findings suggest that financial issues are the core challenge facing Smart Cities.

“This research indicates that a strong reliable Wi-Fi network is critical for South African businesses and Smart City deployments,” said Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa. “Although there are still several hurdles to overcome, it is reassuring to see a widespread belief that Smart Cities can provide value to the economy and citizens, with Wi-Fi as the ‘glue’.”

A Smart City requires strong, reliable information and communication technology infrastructure to support the latest iterations of connectivity. This does not mean fixed-line should fall by the wayside. Instead, being smart requires a cross-platform approach that combines the best of class with the best infrastructure to deliver digital services catering for business and consumer needs.

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