The Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) has been formed and currently represents 15 operators in the Western Cape. The Association aims to represent the interests of the rapidly growing industry through selfregulation, proactive engagement of the regulator (ICASA) and through the provision of a platform for efficiently managing consumer complaints. The impetus for the initiative goes back to talks

held with ICASA Head Office during 2005, during the course of which the Regulator gave support to the establishment of such a body.

One of the first tasks of the new Association was to conduct a brief census of the industry as represented by the 15 founding members. Results indicate that, while the industry is young, it has shown more than 100% growth in the last year and, as of October 2006, can lay claim to being a significant player in the economy.

The organization is a national industry representative body, and is currently evaluating a number of applications for membership from across the country. It is estimated that the industry nationally services over 20 000 subscribers, not including operators like Sentech, iBurst, and the 3G players. More information is available on the www.wapa.org.za website.

WAPA is busy drafting a code of conduct which will ensure compliance with ICASA regulations on spectrum use and type approval. WAPA intends to "self-regulate" to ensure compliance with the code of conduct within its membership and the industry in general, and provide ICASA with the assistance it needs to ensure the enforcement of regulations.

David Jarvis, Chairperson of WAPA, says that the Association has engaged in correspondence with ICASA and will be meeting with ICASA representatives next week. “We wish to stress in person to ICASA that the formation of WAPA is in no way intended to be a confrontational move. Rather it is a pragmatic initiative in terms of which WAPA will offer to assist the Authority with the regulation of a largely unregulated industry through its presence on the ground. ICASA and the Complaints and Compliance Commission will at all times remain the ultimate enforcement authority to which identified non -compliance can be referred.”

This initiative comes at a time when ICASA is reeling under the pressure of an exodus of key staff and a huge workload due to the conversion from the old legislative framework to the new Electronic Communications Act. WAPA believes that there is a shared vested interest between its Members and ICASA to ensure that the industry is well regulated and to ensure sustainable and ethical delivery of services to consumers.

Industry snapshot as at October 2006

Subscribers: 4 554
Annual Turnover: R42M
Employment: 190 people
Schools connected: 109 (e-rate of 50% or free)
Clinics/Libraries: 26

Note: This is only in the Western Cape, and only with the 15 Members of WAPA.