Cape Town-based wireless Internet service providers (ISPs) have a new sense of urgency to form their own industry body. This comes after a number of them received letters from the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA).

A letter was sent to eight wireless ISPs by the telecommunications regulator two weeks ago, asking for licence status, such as value-added network services, after complaints had been received about interference within the much used 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz spectrums.

Johann Botha, a director of Amobia, says his company was among those that received the letter, but he did not think it was confrontational. “It is rather an invitation to talk to us, but it has given a new sense of urgency to formulate an industry body, which although is coming out of Cape Town, will operate nationwide,” he says.

The first meeting of the 15 members is due to take place this afternoon, when a committee will be elected and a draft constitution adopted. The body is to be called Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA). Uninet CEO David Jarvis says more details about WAPA will be released next week and this will include how many end-users the companies have on their books and the value of the industry.

“Although the old Telecommunications Act's licence conditions still apply until the new Electronic Communications Act regulations come into effect, the latter law does make provision for such representative bodies,” he says. Jarvis says complaints, such as those recently made public by iBurst, also prompted the realisation that WAPA was needed. He agrees the ICASA letter was not seen as confrontational. Botha says the industry would prefer to self-regulate. “We want to eliminate some of the cowboy elements without destroying the entrepreneurial spirit,” he says.