Carrier WiFi Should Be Open Access

Press Release | Wireless Access Providers' Association (WAPA) | December 4, 2013

Issued by: WAPA

[Johannesburg, 4 December 2013] -

The Wireless Access Providers' Association (WAPA) congratulates one of its members, Internet Solutions, on the recent launch of its open access carrier-grade WiFi network at the Cradlestone Mall, in Mogale City, near the Cradle of Humankind.

‘Carrier-grade' is an industry term referring to WiFi networks that are on par with mobile networks in terms of speed and reliability. The industry has been abuzz lately with talk of carrier-grade WiFi and mobile carrier ‘offload' to WiFi, which delivers data services to the user's smartphone seamlessly via WiFi, rather than via a mobile technology like 3G or LTE.

WiFi is in fact a wholly complementary technology to mobile technologies, and WAPA expects to see a massive growth in carrier WiFi in South Africa in 2014 and beyond.

WiFi uses licence-exempt spectrum, which is highly prone to interference when there are multiple WiFi networks in the same physical location. The most reliable and cost-effective way for multiple parties to provide WiFi services in the same space is to create a wholesale open access WiFi network, for data provisioning and value-added services alike. Best-of-breed solutions delivering both value to venues, such as predictive analytics, and value to customers, like location-based loyalty solutions, will spread faster if network operators opt to wholesale their network.

According to WAPA Deputy Chairperson and WiFi champion Ellie Hagopian: "Licence-exempt spectrum should remain just that, and not become the playground of incumbents who use their size to buy multi-year exclusive leases in key areas for self-utilisation, or in order to partner with incumbents to use licence-exempt WiFi solely for 'offload' from licensed bands. On the other hand, open access networks such as at the Cradlestone Mall benefit the entire industry."

Just as building a carrier-grade network is far from straightforward, to provide open access in a secure, reliable manner requires understanding and complying with best practices. WAPA plans to lead a cross-industry collaboration in 2014 to define both technical and business best practices for open access carrier-grade WiFi networks. More details on this will be forthcoming early next year.

WAPA has taken notice of the recent formation of the WiFi Forum ofSouth Africaand applauds its aims, which are aligned with WAPA's own. Mohammad Patel, WAPA Chairperson, calls on the WiFi Forum to collaborate with WAPA to promote open access, going further to state: "We call on any members of the WiFi Forum that are not WAPA members to join our community, so that collectively we can promote industry best practices and lobby for open access."


The Wireless Access Providers' Association (WAPA), established in 2006, is a non-profit industry representative body acting as a collective voice for over 160 independent wireless operators in South Africa. WAPA's primary objective is to ensure the sustainability of the wireless access services market by facilitating self-regulation of the outdoor fixed and indoor nomadic wireless industries. WAPA's membership is differentiated from other wireless providers by its focus on using open standard wireless technologies (WiFi). WAPA offers its members regulatory advice, a code of conduct, an enforcement process and a forum for knowledge-sharing. More info:

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