Dr de Wet presented the idea at the Global Wi-Fi Offload Summit Africa 2014 hosted in Johannesburg on 08 May, the first time Africa has hosted the event.
Q-KON, which co-sponsored the event, has a successful track record in the provision of wireless services which dates back to the mid-nineties. Its value proposition is based on servicing connectivity for off-grid edge locations in terms of telecommunications network and its focus is the edge that defines the place where technology meets markets and business.
Executive leadership at Q-KON challenged delegates to consider the provision of seamless Wi-Fi offload services and carrier networks outside of what convention dictates and whether or not this should be the exclusive domain of major telecommunication companies.
“We don’t have an issue with telecommunication service providers handling Wi-Fi offload… we just question whether this is the only ‘box’ of value that the market should view in terms of available wireless services. What if the government could offer medical aid or pension payment and broadband services? What if you could earn megabytes simply by going to the gym? Or what if an employer could offer car or cellphone allowances as well as broadband access? What we envisage is a large-scale Wi-Fi opportunity for all, including system integrators, mobile operators and local service providers,” Dr de Wet added.
Seamless integration and satellite
Q-KON says 80% of South Africa’s population is still positioned off ‘the grid’, meaning that from a usage point of view, they are not at the epicentre of wireless service coverage and rollout.
Seamless integration, sufficient broadband, latency and access point installation influence the successful delivery of Wi-Fi service and provision of large-scale access.
Dr de Wet added that the market should not scoff at the idea of satellite to help sustain the establishment of a centralised, open and all-accessible Wi-Fi network of the future.
“Despite what some may perceive, satellite is not old technology… it has merely been abused to do what fibre was always supposed to. Today there is separation of the technology and each will do what they were designed to do. Satellite is competitive with 3G and will compete with fibre in terms of being an access medium… not right away, but in few years time, most certainly,” Dr de Wet explained.
The picture the company has in mind, particularly given the market’s return to the engineering component of wireless infrastructure development and service delivery, is a network resource that provides national satellite access or ADSL or 3G, with the registration of thousands of Wi-Fi access points at the core. Link up will be to a single network.
While Dr de Wet acknowledged that major operators would naturally be hesitant to endorse such a scheme and ‘lose ground’, the benefit of this arrangement is wider access to broadband services and improved network grid expansion.
Steps to a brighter Wi-Fi future
Q-KON proposes that in order for this vision to be realised, there are several steps that need to be in place in order for this vision to be realised.
Dr de Wet said that the core must be right and cloud subscriber management has to be installed in order to ensure that the many access points begin behaving like a single network. “The reality of this service level is that anyone with a number can be issued with megabytes,” he said.
The question of who foots the bill and how much is involved for an open access, integrated Wi-Fi network was also raised as a topic for debate.
Although this and other questions had to be discussed in more detail, Q-KON advised that a single core network endorsed by multi parties and operated independently and access available to all providers can lead to the enhancement of community driven projects and industry leaders in hospitality and retail.
Liza du Plessis
Liza du Plessis