Increase in internet users boosts public Wi-Fi in SSA

By Tom Jackson, South Africa

The rise in the number of internet users and overall broadband services is boosting the public Wi-Fi market in Sub-Saharan Africa, with service providers expected to rely on Wi-Fi to offload some data in spite of investments in 3G and 4G networks.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan entitled “Strategic Analysis of Public Wi-Fi in Sub-Saharan Africa” said high mobile internet penetration rates in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya offered huge opportunities for Wi-Fi vendors, especially in megacities where networks face heavy mobile traffic congestion.

Frost & Sullivan said vendors must address security, service quality, billing and cost differentials to maximise network efficiency and monetise access to Wi-Fi.

“The evolution of several megacities into smart cities in Sub-Saharan Africa is laying the foundation for the adoption of smart building and smart grid solutions across the continent,” said Frost & Sullivan Information & Communication Technologies Research Analyst Lehlohonolo Mokenela. “As a result, device manufacturers are focusing on the development of Wi-Fi enabled devices for use in smart solutions, quickening the march towards greater Wi-Fi penetration.”

Internet service providers (ISPs) and specialist Wi-Fi providers have traditionally dominated the deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots in the region, with mobile operators avoiding any migration due to concerns over potential cannibalisation of mobile data revenues. Frost & Sullivan now say, however, that there are increasing signs of operators turning to Wi-Fi as an alternative means of generating revenue or boosting service quality.

Operators will need to build their own Wi-Fi networks or partner with established providers in order to providing Wi-Fi access in prime locations such as airports and restaurants, which will assist in improving customer value and reduce subscriber churn.

“In the long-term, operators should consider offering their customers a seamless handover of data access between Wi-Fi and cellular networks,” said Mokenela. “To that end, they will need to address security, service quality, billing and cost differentials between the networks to ensure a consistent experience for customers.”



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