VAST and Vodacom are trialling Wi-Fi offloading in South Africa which has the potential to offer subscribers faster and cheaper mobile data services.
Wi-Fi offloading is a technique used by mobile operators to increase their network capacity by serving their customers through unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum.
It is a seamless process where a user’s smartphone automatically connects and authenticates on a Wi-Fi network through their mobile operator.
This practice can reduce congestion on mobile networks and improve the user experience for subscribers.
Another big benefit is that it is significantly cheaper to serve data through a Wi-Fi network than through a cellular network.
Wi-Fi offloading tested in South Africa
VAST, Africa’s largest public Wi-Fi provider, has partnered with Vodacom to conduct a technical Wi-Fi offloading trial in South Africa.
VAST is already providing Wi-Fi offloading services to AT&T’s subscribers who visit South Africa, and is now planning to expand this service to local operators.
VAST CEO Grant Marais and CTO Khetan Gajjar demonstrated the service to MyBroadband and the experience was impressive.
The phone automatically connected to the Wi-Fi network and both the download and upload speeds exceeded 100Mbps.
This performance, especially considering that it was indoors without a strong mobile signal, is much higher than one would get through a mobile network.
Strong indoor coverage
VAST’s strong presence in shopping malls and restaurants can reduce the cost to mobile operators which need to improve coverage in these areas.
Marais told MyBroadband that they can deliver data to mobile customers at a third of the production cost of mobile networks.
A mobile operator like Rain, for example, struggles with indoor coverage because it does not have a presence in shopping malls, hotels or restaurants.
Wi-Fi offloading is an innovative solution to this problem as it provides an affordable way to deliver fast access to mobile users.