Across Africa demands are changing, access models are changing and consumers are blurring the lines between corporate and personal spaces – becoming more
With more than 650 million mobile users in Africa and with 50% of Internet connections being exclusively channelled through mobile devices, Africa is the second biggest mobile market in the world and the fastest growing.
With this growth, the expectation of increased capacity and coverage by users is exploding, but as more traffic, devices and concurrent connections hit mobile networks, the cost for transporting these bits rises. As a result, these trends are driving a new networks strategy that reduces OPEX and CAPEX, using Wi-Fi to offload non-essential traffic from cellular networks as well as scaling coverage and capacity quickly, using smaller cell sizes.
“As a result we are seeing a lot more free Wi-Fi, larger hotspots and Wi-Fi solutions being used in different verticals such as education – and most importantly, interest from service providers as to the viability of Wi-Fi as an alternative means for their users to access data,” says Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. “In fact, Wi-Fi represents one of the most expedient and cost-effective ways to increase both capacity and coverage of cellular networks, with a tight focus on where traffic is heaviest.”
Ultimately for the mobile network operators (MNOs), Wi-Fi is a far more cost-effective way to provide access to customers and on the reverse, for customers, it is a better experience and a more cost-effective solution, too – especially if their 3G networks are congested. What’s more, many rural towns have no broadband at all, and as such Wi-Fi provides an alternative to bring broadband to rural areas for much less than what they would pay for 3G.