Despite the lower cost of Wi-Fi compared to mobile network connectivity, there is still low adoption of the technology in emerging markets such as South Africa, says an industry player.
“In developed markets the Wi-Fi adoption in homes is more or less 100%, in sub-Saharan Africa you still only see home Wi-Fi adoption for the privileged few,” Johan Terve, vice president of Marketing at Aptilo Networks told Fin24.
The company specialises in carrier offload and has operations in 65 countries. Terve was speaking on the sidelines of the AfricaCom tech showcase underway in Cape Town.
He said that in countries like SA, Wi-Fi was emerging as a competitive advantage for businesses that offered internet connectivity.
“In emerging markets adoption rates are concentrated around larger corporate offices that have Wi-Fi (for example, in sub-Saharan Africa), or in internet cafés, so in these instances you find that Wi-Fi access all revolves around one access point (or a grouping of access points). Wi-Fi has become the modern-day water hole. People gravitate to these locations to get access.”
A Brendan Research study found that customers appreciated free Wi-Fi internet access at businesses more than magazines, chocolates and water.
According to a paper by iGR which polled 400 small businesses offering Wi-Fi access, 50.1% of customers spent more money and 61.3% spent more time in the establishments.
However, Terve said hype around Wi-Fi in emerging markets was centred around the scarcity of internet access.
“The perception that it is higher adoption rates for Wi-Fi in emerging markets comes from that in emerging markets it is a ‘big thing’ while in developed markets it is as similar to water coming out of the pipe.”
He added that mobile operators would only roll out Wi-Fi service where it made business sense.
In SA, the City of Tshwane has deployed a scalable Wi-Fi programme and Terve suggested that access programmes be expanded around high traffic areas.
“For Wi-Fi to be sustainable, hotspots should be deployed around where people normally aggregate: In shopping malls. It is also many times necessary for governments to actively go in and subsidise Wi-Fi in underserved areas to drive the economy in a positive direction.”