Is 2014 the year of Wi-Fi in Africa?

Free Wi-Fi initiatives in African cities such as Rwanda’s Kigali and South Africa’s Tshwane are set to drive wireless internet access on the continent, says Ruckus Wireless.

Ruckus Wireless, a supplier of advanced wireless systems for the mobile internet infrastructure market, has predicted that this year could be a watershed one for Wi-Fi.

According to research from the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) compiled by Informa Telecoms & Media, global public Wi-Fi hotspot numbers could reach 5.8 million by 2015, marking a 350% increase since 2011.

And officials at Ruckus Wireless say that in 2014 the state of the Wi-Fi industry could continue to improve.

The firm has predicted that more areas in Africa are set to have access to free Wi-Fi hotspots.

However, challenges such as inadequate equipment may stall free Wi-Fi access, says Ruckus in a statement.

Ruckus Wireless officials also expect Wi-Fi in shopping malls to become more common.

Meanwhile, the company further adds that the same is forecast for the hospitality sector, in which basic Wi-Fi could become free and if customers want additions they can pay extra for the service.

“Ultimately, consumers are looking for access and Wi-Fi has proven to be the solution that works,” Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa, said in a statement.

“As a result, it is a growing industry and finally the promise of what Wi-Fi can provide are coming to the fore as consumers, enterprises and operators alike become more aware of the possibilities that this spectrum provides,” he added.

Ruckus Wireless also predicted that 2014 could hail the first true 3G offload to Wi-Fi in Africa – with many countries including South Africa and Kenya looking at this as a viable option.

“No matter how much network capacity is put in place through a combination of cellular and Wi-Fi, it will never be enough. More spectrum and spectrum sharing ideas are required, along with ever greater network densification,” said Fletcher.

“However, what is clear is that Wi-Fi certainly has its place and 2014 will be the year Wi-Fi takes its rightful position in the industry,” he concluded.

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