Namibia's Wi-Fi Rollout Not Encouraging


Wi-fi in Namibia is not as widespread as one would hope, with some hotspots in and around the capital's city centre, the bigger hotels and elsewhere around the country having reasonable but somewhat slow data connections. There is also no free wi-fi, noted the South African based Ruckus Wireless.

"It is interesting to see that wi-fi is not being used as it should in Southern Africa. Considering that it is far more cost effective and an easier to deploy access medium of broadband than GSM or licensed based options, one would expect to see wi-fi being used predominately in areas such as Namibia given the geographical landscape. What's more, deploying wi-fi into Namibia can provide a better user experience to mobile Internet users at far lower cost than GSM. Even if you want to go into marginal areas that GSM options can cover, it would still be too costly - you simply have a better way to do this, and far cheaper, with wi-fi, " said Michael Fletcher, Sales Director for Ruckus Wireless Sub-Saharan Africa.

With wi-fi there is no spectrum requirement from the regulators, which means it's much quicker and, of course, cheaper to deploy networks. According to Fletcher, 3G offload, which has gained momentum quite rapidly recently, now means that carriers are pushing their users to wi-fi for data and using GSM for voice. So in an area where there is a supply issue with GSM data, carriers can simply deploy as many access points as they need and provide great service to their customers.

"There is an insatiable demand for constant connectivity and as a result of such demand, it is estimated that public hotspots globally are predicted to rise by 350 percent by 2015, and the number of private hotspots is expected to hit over 640 million," added Fletcher. "It is for this reason that not only do operators need to take such movements and changes in the market seriously to ensure that they are able to keep up with the demand, as consumers, we need to demand better, faster and simpler wi-fi," continued Fletcher.

This is where Hotspot 2.0 comes in. Hotspot 2.0 is to wi-fi what roaming is to GSM. "With a cellphone, when you arrive in a new country, you turn on your phone and the phone finds the provider with whom your home carrier has a roaming agreement and logs on for you. Hotspot 2.0 has the potential to do all that and more. Ever changed hotspots at an airport? Select SSID, hope captive portal loads, if it doesn't load Google and then search, then input login details. And when you change hotspots you do it all over again; Hotspot 2.0 has that covered by providing a seamless user experience akin to GSM, except using wi-fi. All that's really needed at this point is for the carriers to set up the roaming agreements with existing enterprise wi-fi hotspot owners, and for Hotspot 2.0-enabled devices to start proliferating into the ecosystem," he said.

Add Location Based Services (LBS) and not only do you have location intelligence and wi-fi now becomes an indispensable tool for businesses and customers alike. "Think of smart cities," said Fletcher. "Ruckus will be able to provide the Namibian airport management with location based services for real-time crowd control, provide locations-based information to hurried travellers, and provide an intelligent way for travellers to traverse the airport. What's more, it can provide public transit operators with real-time passenger and traffic information, enabling increased efficiencies in scheduling and dispatching, as well as improved facilities and crowd management - especially during those peak times."

Fletcher is convinced that the adoption of Hotspot 2.0 and LBS will continue to strengthen wi-fi's hand as a compelling solution for handling and making sense of the tremendous surge in data demand driven by the non-stop growth of mobile devices worldwide.

"The potential wi-fi has to change the telecommunications landscape in Southern Africa, as with the rest of the world, cannot be denied. Wi-fi is becoming more and more pervasive in Namibia, Africa, and around the globe with hotspots becoming readily available everywhere. The flexibility and overall cost-effectiveness of wi-fi is helping to provide much needed access, especially in Africa," he said.