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Hayden LambertiHayden Lamberti

We are rapidly approaching a point when a number of key factors will converge to force a tipping point in the local mobile connectivity market. As mobile content consumption behaviour continues to evolve and smartphone penetration rates increase, especially following the introduction of lower cost options, traditional mobile connectivity mediums such as 2G, 3G, LTE and WiMax will be unable to cope with these increased demands.

Globally, metro Wi-Fi networks are touted as a panacea to alleviate this congestion and enable better mobility, by drawing data consumption off-net. However, in South Africa a number of legacy issues, including the slow pace of local loop unbundling, ageing copper infrastructure and the high costs of fibre networks, will limit the potential of this solution. These meshed Wi-Fi networks also pose problems due to the poor quality of service they deliver, which erodes the intrinsic value of ubiquitous connectivity and the mobility it enables.

Augmenting short range Wi-Fi networks over fi bre at key strategic sites like office complexes, hotels and shopping malls, with WiMax, , 3G and 2G will create the type of heterogeneous network needed to deliver the best mobile computing experience in South Africa.

While this is already happening in many locations across the country, there remains a stigma that many end-users already attach to ‘free’ public Wi-Fi. While, technically speaking, it is ‘free for use’, someone is paying for it. This means that many public Wi-Fi access points offer limited capabilities and poor quality of experience as those providing this free service look to mitigate the costs of the value added service.

We also lack the functionality to make the transition between mobile networks and public Wi-Fi networks a seamless one. While Passport or Hotspot 2.0 technology will make the handover mechanism more seamless, requiring less input from users, these capabilities are still some way off. It is for these reasons many end-users seldom switch over to available public Wi-Fi hotspots and continue to congest mobile networks.

It’s only when businesses, municipalities and service providers begin to differentiate themselves on the quality of the public Wi-Fi service they offer, especially at strategic locations, that we’ll begin to unlock mobility’s true potential through the augmented heterogeneous networks that Wi-Fienables.

About the author:
, business unit manager, Enterprise Mobility,