Cape Town, 12 September 2012 — It’s all wireless today at South Africa’s premier Internet Service Providers’ conference, iWeek 2012, Century City, Cape Town
The annual major event, organized by Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA), ZA Central Registry (ZACR), South Africa Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-ZA) and Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) is being hosted at the Crystal Towers Conference Center in Century City. Read more…
National Treasury has been leading a market sounding on behalf of Government, with a view to gaining an understanding of the approaches for achieving the targeted 100% broadband coverage by 2020 and the associated fiscal support that may be required to catalyse the rollout.
WAPA was invited to participate in this, earlier in the week.
Although there was a DOC representative present, their objective was to look at broadband rollout from a treasury, rather than regulatory point of view.
WAPA Chair, Christopher Geerdts, gave the presentation, and was accompanied by WAPA members Jabulani Vilakazi and Johan Kruger, as well as WAPA regulatory advisor, Sumaiyah Makda.
WAPA’s message was as follows:
1. We are here and we are significant players, collectively, in both rural and urban spaces.
2. We are doing a lot with relatively little. (WAPA members’ needs were raised)
Further points raised were:
• Any funding for Telkom, Neotel and Broadband Infraco must have the mandate adjusted to encourage or force them to work with local WISPs and not waste resources ‘going it alone’. We advised them that we are working with these entities already, but a nudge is always good.
• In the low income housing sector, government and banks found workable lending models. We also need models suited to our type of business, so that banks are more keen to invest.
Christopher notes that “Judging from the copious notes they took and the specific questions asked, we got a good message across and have raised our profile. We realise we need to keep up the pressure and awareness-raising energy. It was really helpful to have two operators present to give inputs from direct experience and to support our arguments.” and we thank Jabulani and Johan for volunteering to participate.
WAPA is offering the following two training courses in Cape Town:
Monitoring your network using MikroTik’s “The Dude” free network monitoring application
• Network management intro
• SNMP Theory
• Pre-install network preparation
• Obtaining and Installing The Dude
• Initial Configuration
• Network Scanning
• Building your Network Layout
• Client Monitoring Configuration
• Dude Notifications
• Dude as Netlog Server
• Graphing performance
• Building custom Functions
Cost: R750 for WAPA members / R900 for non-members
Optimising your MikroTik and Ubiquiti networks for ultimate wireless performance
Ever wondered what was possible using off the shelf wireless equipment? Ever read about the amazing speeds users have achieved but never able to get those results yourself? In this course David Savage, MikroTik Certified Trainer and Ubiquiti AirMax Certified trainer, gives you insight into the inner workings of MikroTik’s and Ubiquiti’s wireless systems and shows you how you can achieve these incredible results in the field. Each delegate will receive a RouterBoard OnmiTik for practise during the class and to take home at the end of the course.
• Theory behind optimal wireless performance
• 802.11N Protocol
• Airmax vs NV2
• MIMO and Data Rates
• Equipment Selection
• System Configuration
Cost: R1100 (members) / R1300 (non-members)
Includes a MikroTik OmniTik for delegates to take home, worth R750
WAPA strongly welcomes the keynote address delivered by the Minister of Communications at the ICT Indaba this week, in which she highlighted the importance of working with “big and small” ISPs and recognised their need for spectrum assignment “where it was needed most”:
“World Wide Worx has also reported that over six million South Africans have access to internet. This represents significant progress. In 2010 the broadband subscriber base increased by 50%.
Much of this growth can be attributed to an impressive increase in the number of mobile broadband customers using smartphones. Mobile broadband grew by 31% in 2011 to reach 4.2 million people in the country.
We are however concerned that the broadband prices remain very high based on purchasing power parity in comparison with some OECD countries such as Mexico, Chile and Hungary.
We are taking steps to address this challenge by introducing more competition in the data market.
Through the licensing process which we have embarked upon, we expect to identify capable Internet Service Providers (ISP) who will make use of the radio frequency spectrum to push the prices lower. These ISPs, big and small, are also expected to offer affordable broadband services to poor South Africans and the people living in rural areas.”
“We have been highlighting for many years the crucial role our ISP members play in delivering quality, affordable broadband to all,” says WAPA Chairperson Christopher Geerdts, “but recently we have found a real openness that is encouraging. If we could build on this partnership and gain access to important spectrum, the combined impact of our members would increase exponentially”.
This statement was in reference to WAPA’s recent census, which shows that its 125 members are providing 6 000 hotspots, employing 1 000 people and serving one million end users, including rural schools and clinics. This is currently being achieved through the innovative use of extremely limited spectrum access.
Geerdts added that WAPA’s members were excited about the policy review initiated by the Minister and looked forward to working with the Department of Communications to realise its vision.
Interested in operating as a wireless service provider?
You need a Class ECNS to build a wireless network in your area.
You need a Class ECS to sell data or voice services over your network.
WAPA offers a service to new members helping them with the licensing process. Once signed up, WAPA will assist you with the application and follow up on your behalf until the licences are issued. Go here to sign up.
DEFINITIONS: ECS & ECNS Licences
The Electronic Communications Act provides for two types of telecommunications licence:
Electronic Communications Services (ECS) licence
Electronic Communication Network Services (ECNS) licence
The ECNS licence gives a service provider the right to roll out and operate physical telecommunications infrastructure such as telephone lines or cellular masts and antennas. Effectively, this means that an ECNS licence holder has the same right to ‘self-provide’ its own network infrastructure as the incumbent operators such as MTN, Vodacom, and Telkom have always had.
The ECS licence gives a service provider the right to provide services over its own or another company’s telecom infrastructure.
Take an ADSL line as an example. To lay down the physical copper from the service provider’s premises, across public property and into the customer’s business or residence, one would need to have an ECNS. To provide the related Internet service provider services such as Web access, one would need to have an ECS.
ECS and ECNS licence types are further defined as Class or Individual.
A class ECS licence authorises the holder to provide electronic communications services on a national basis and to enter into commercial agreements with network operators to use their networks to carry its services to its customers. An individual ECS licence entitles the holder to access telephone numbers from the national numbering plan.
A class ECNS licence authorises the holder to self-provide its own network in an area no larger than a district municipality. An individual ECNS entitles the holder to roll out a national or provincial network.
ICASA issues only class licences at present, and individual licences only become available when sold by existing licence holders. WAPA can also advise as to the availability of these. However, there is also the option to apply for multiple class ECNS licences, as the area of operation spreads over municipal district boundaries.
WAPA has just released its latest census results. The results fill a valuable knowledge gap in the understanding of national broadband service provision and show strong growth in the sector, as WAPA members scramble to meet pent up demand for high-quality, cost-effective broadband in urban and rural areas.
“We are gratified by the high involvement of members in our organisation, reflected in the 76% response rate in the census. We are also encouraged by the crucial contribution our members are making to address the broadband deficit in South Africa”, says WAPA Chairperson Christopher Geerdts. Geerdts further states that the WAPA membership is growing 40% per annum, with overall customer numbers increasing at an even faster rate.
WAPA to date has 125 members, which, as the census indicates, provide wireless broadband to an estimated 80 000 customers. This represents a turnover of R160m, the employment of 1 000 people and the provisioning of over 6 000 public hotspots. “Since a single customer can be a household, a business, clinic or an institution, the number of end users served could well be in the millions”, explains , General Manager of WAPA. “Our members cover 550 schools (each with hundreds of pupils), as well as mines, health facilities, restaurants and Internet cafés”.
The census results underscore the considerable economic benefit that WAPA members are bringing to South Africa and the alignment thereof with government objectives for telecoms by:
– Introducing competition to Broadband provision
– Raising service quality and customer service
– Challenging high prices
– Driving innovation
The fact that WAPA members are geographically dispersed means that local economic stimulation, job creation and technical skills-sharing is extended to rural areas, where they are most needed. WAPA members’ hotspots provide affordable and convenient access in diverse locations. Thousands of tourists who pass through each year can access the Internet from airports, shopping malls and game parks. Students are given greater access to the Internet, which is their lifeline for effective study. Schools are connected, often as a free service, in both urban and rural areas. Service is given to communities previously ‘forgotten’ or which other, larger providers have ignored.
As the survey shows, more than 90% of this access is offered via ‘unlicensed’ wireless frequencies, and Geerdts believes that WAPA members could raise the bar even higher if given access to better quality spectrum – something which WAPA is actively lobbying the government to provide.
“WAPA members can be immensely proud of the enormous strides they are taking in their own right and as an industry”, says Geerdts. “The census results provide quality information to quantify the achievements of the members and the growth in this mode of wireless broadband provision. They show that we are on the cusp of a quiet but significant revolution. It’s a wireless future”.
WAPA is positioned to be an interface between the government regulator (ICASA), network operators, service providers and wireless consumers. Executing on its commitment to putting the focus on South Africa’s Wireless Internet Service Providers’ role in bringing true broadband to South Africa, WAPA announces its main objectives for 2012.
“Our focus will be to promote practical regulation of TV White Spaces by speaking at various conferences during the year,” states WAPA Chairperson Christopher Geerdts. “Among these initiatives, we will be looking out for (projects) to promote TVWS.”
WAPA plays a significant role in addressing wireless regulatory and spectrum issues in the country. WAPA’s aim to become an Industry Representative Body recognized under law by the regulator, enters its final stretch this year with Ziggy Heuer heading the project with the assistance of Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions, legal advisor to WAPA that also keeps members up to date with regulatory issues.
“Our website overhaul in 2011 has greatly increased visitor numbers and awareness of wireless internet service providers. The ‘Check Coverage’ and ‘Member Directory’ pages on the website allows South African citizens to look for wireless broadband coverage in their area. We receive an average of 300 unique visitors, and 3 queries for Internet connections daily. The traffic is constantly growing, proving how hungry South Africans are for broadband internet,” explains Deputy Chair, Mohammad Patel. ”In 2012, we will be focusing much energy on increasing WAPA’s public profile with the aid of press releases and a digital marketing strategy.”
WAPA’s treasurer for two years running, Abraham van der Merwe, is optimistic after a healthy 2011 financial year. Sponsorships and advertising from the many players, including the likes of Google, for various events, and a 20% membership growth in 2011, has helped to keep WAPA in the black.
Training sessions on wireless installation and high site best practices held in 2011 proved very popular with the members. WAPA aims to have online training in place by mid-year and has approached various institutions for discounted materials and courses to benefit its members.
A national operator approached WAPA in 2010 to discuss the possibility of its members providing connectivity outside the reach of its fiber network. A member was chosen to represent the average WAPA member in a proof-of-concept network. The project is on track with links currently being tested by this operator. This project holds great promise for the average South African business and consumer in that it is one of many that will bring even greater high-quality broadband coverage to our country.
Other goals for 2012 include working alongside our industry partner, ISPA.
WAPA is undergoing an overhaul in its administration, with the Executive Committee collaborating using the latest on-line tools. This is set to further accelerate productivity and member participation to benefit the South African public.
After some months of conceptualising and lots of hard work from the team at Blink Tower and much input from the WAPA Marketing working group, the eagerly awaited WAPA video has been released and is now LIVE on the WAPA homepage as well as the WAPA YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/wapasouthafrica
The video is a 60-second explainer which briefly informs the viewer what WAPA can do for its members, how important it is to be a member, and the value WAPA offers to its members.
By playing this video at upcoming conferences and expo’s, WAPA hopes to attract many of the wireless providers who are interested in upgrading their status by committing to following WAPA’s Industry Code of Conduct, as this will benefit the wireless industry as a whole.
This video is also part of the drive to make wireless customers ask the question, “Is my service provider a WAPA-member?”, in turn encouraging more WISPs to join WAPA, making us a truly representative body of independent wireless operators.
Photo by rogergordon. Used with permission under creative commons license 2.0
“We have the skills, the entrepreneurs, a spectrum model we can replicate, the standards, the technology and clearly we have the demand,” said South African Henk Kleynhans in the wake of a TV white spaces workshop in Johannesburg last week. “All we need is a regulatory go-ahead.”
Unused TV white spaces could be the way to get highspeed wireless internet to millions in Africa including who have been enforcedly “offline” till now because they live outside major cities.
APC and partners gathered government officials, industry, regulators and professionals at a workshop in Johannesburg in October 5 focusing on television white spaces in Africa. The meeting was called at a time where there is a danger that incumbent licence holders will seek to lock down television spectrum within traditional private-property style licences.
“While there is a place for this kind of licence a balanced approach is needed. Too much is at stake to not open up more unlicenced spectrum. TVWS spectrum can enable a new generation of wireless entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa,” said the workshop organisers APC, the Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) and Google Africa in a background document.
“Spectrum is a critical resource to any country and it should be managed in the national strategic interest and not just in the interests of the incumbent operators,” Steve Song, a social entrepreneur and founder of Village Telco told APCNews.
“APC believes that the best way of making sure that the public interest drives policy and regulation is to get people from business and civil society around the same table with regulators and policy makers,” APC director Anriette Esterhuysen added. “This event had added value as we were able to include senior regulators from outside Africa who were in Johannesburg for the annual conference of the International Institute of Communications.”
“Affordability is the key to enabling the benefits if ICTs in Africa and competition is the key to making access more affordable. Right now, access to spectrum is a key bottleneck to introducing more competition,” explained Song.
APCNews talked to Steve together with Henk Kleynhans, chair of the South African Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) —a collective voice for more than 120 wireless internet service providers across South Africa most of which are based in rural areas— and Kenyan Ory Okolloh, Google Policy and Government Relations Manager for Africa.
APCNews: What for you were the main points that came out of the Johannesburg workshop?
Henk Kleynhans: The problem of low broadband penetration is much more urgent in Africa than it is in the US or the UK and it is therefore imperative that we lead the way on TV white space usage and legislation.
Our regulators are surprisingly more sophisticated than they get credit for. ICASA [the South African regulator] is already working with universities and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on making TVWS available for broadband use.
There is a real opportunity already to learn from the mistakes the FCC in the USA and OFCOM in the UK have made. From the expert testimony at the workshop, it appears spectrum databases were created for political rather than technical reasons. We could look at using databases, but rather as a complement to cognitive radios, instead of forming any type of barrier to rolling out Super Wi-Fi.
Steve Song: The key point is that spectrum management typically involves long cycles of change. The digital dividend probably won’t be fully resolved in Africa for another 10 years. TVWS spectrum represents an immediate win that can be taken advantage of by regulators.
Ory Okolloh: This is an opportunity to do something different that could have a huge impact on how we increase both internet access and the quality of internet access in the region, and to be at the leading edge of TVWS.
APCNews: One tweet coming out of the workshop said: “Cutting to the chase, @kenyanpundit asks the regulators who is ready to try a TVWS pilot.” What moves are you expecting to see after this meeting?
Steve: The good news was that all regulators at the event expressed an interest in piloting TVWS technology. [Ed. Note: The event was attended by regulators from South Africa, Kenya and Mozambique as well as a former regulator from Nigeria.] The other good news was that the workshop was picked up widely in the press and contributed to raising awareness of the issue.
Ory: Actually I am @kenyanpundit 🙂 I’d like to see more conversations between multiple stakeholders in a frank and open way as took place at the workshop and would also like the opportunity to involve more regional regulators in sharing the opportunities as well as case studies around TVWS. APC and other partners helped bring together a diverse group and ensured that this event was not the usual preaching to the choir. The debate was great, the questions pertinent and a rare thing happened – specific outcomes resulted from the workshop.
Henk: I feel that ICASA is much more on the ball than previously thought, possibly because a lot of their work happens behind the scenes. ICASA knows from experience with wi-fi that better technology will always find a way into the market. It is crucial that ICASA plays a role in establishing the ground rules of Super Wi-Fi and ensuring a level playing field for service providers. APC played a key role in making sure the right people came together in this forum.
Super Wi-Fi will land on our shores in due time, but if it’s not used in a legal and regulated fashion, the pioneers deploying rural broadband services will be operating in a grey-area as was the case with Wi-Fi and VoIP for too many years. And although they will gain customers, they will struggle to get finance for building infrastructure rapidly.
In South Africa, we have the skills, the entrepreneurs with local relationships, ample spectrum available, a spectrum model we can replicate, the standards (IEEE 802.22), the technology and clearly, we have the demand. All we need is a regulatory go-ahead.
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that wants everyone to have access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world. www.apc.org
The Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA), established in 2006, is a non-profit industry representative body acting as a collective voice for independent wireless operators in South Africa. WAPA’s primary objective is to ensure the sustainability of the licence-exempt wireless access services market. www.wapa.org.za
WAPA is a founding member of the Open Spectrum Alliance, which seeks to lobby for more progressive and efficient spectrum management in South Africa. www.openspectrum.org.za
WAPA and the OSA have proposed a “lite licensing” spectrum assignment model to give members access to interference-free spectrum. WAPA has a spectrum working group that has been exploring how TVWS spectrum can transform the connectivity landscape in Africa to achieve the goal of creating affordable access for all and WAPA Chairperson Henk Kleynhans has spent the last two years actively lobbying for unlicenced but managed spectrum in the digital dividend, as it will give a major boost to innovation, entrepreneurship and tech skills development.
Around the world, connectedness has begun to define the our ability to gain access to education, to participate in governance, and to create and access resources whether nationally or globally. Increasingly, we see a direct relationship between the growth of broadband infrastructure and national economic growth.
The African continent is on the cusp of a broadband transformation as more and more undersea fibre optic cables find their way to African shores. However, in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, access to these new terabytes of fibre optic broadband only reaches major cities. We rely on wireless technology to reach out beyond major urban areas. Yet, as demand grows, existing wireless capacity is threatened as more and more people come online.
By bringing together government officials, communication regulators, and industry professionals in mainly Southern Africa to hear from experts in the industry, as well as international speakers contributing on the progress of TV White Spaces in the United States, including the pros, cons, pitfalls, unforeseen problems and unforeseen benefits with regards to WISPA members and the industry as a whole, today is about exploring how TVWS spectrum could transform the connectivity landscape in Africa to achieve the goal of creating affordable access for all and boosting the growth of the technology sector in sub-Saharan Africa.
You don’t need a spectrum license! Or at the very least licensing is very, very lightweight. This means that you you can deploy TWS technology in a very similar manner to other unlicensed wireless technologies such as WiFi. This means more market entrants, more competition, and ultimately more service and better prices for consumers.
You don’t need to re-farm spectrum!Re-farming spectrum which involves moving existing spectrum holders from one band to another band is notoriously painful and long-winded. Just look as the pain-in-the-behind that iBurst and Sentech’s spectrum holding in the 2.6GHz range has been for that process. TWS spectrum can re-use unused television spectrum without moving any existing spectrum holders.
It’s lovely spectrum! Television spectrum is capable of penetrating obstacles such as trees and building much more easily than WiFi spectrum or WiMax for that matter. This means that it will be MUCH easier to deploy this technology and it can be deployed a lot more affordably. It is not without downsides. You don’t get as much throughput through TWS spectrum, probably more like 2Mb/s but frankly that is plenty for loads of applications.
This is such an opportunity for Africa. Pundits are estimating that the TWS market may be worth 4 billion dollars in the U.S. This is a country that already has broadband and is packed with television broadcasters. Here in South Africa it would be hard to find a place where more than a half dozen television channels were in use. Likewise the need for affordable connectivity is so much greater. This is SUCH an opportunity!
Why are we playing “catch up” when we clearly should be leading the way?
Henk Kleynhans, in his presentation is calling for unlicenced but managed spectrum, as it will give a major boost to innovation, entrepreneurship and tech skills development. WAPA aims for this proposal to reach those that are in a position to make informed decisions regarding spectrum usage and aim to foster dialogue on TV White Spaces with South Africa as starting point.
Call to Action
Right now manufacturers are gearing up for mass production of TVWS devices. If we can put appropriate spectrum regulation in place, we can seize the day as these devices become available.
Now is the time to act. As Digital Dividend spectrum is on the cusp of becoming available there is a danger that incumbent license holders will seek to lock down television spectrum within traditional private-property style licenses. While there is a place for this kind of license, a balanced approach is needed. Too much is at stake to not open up more unlicensed spectrum. TVWS spectrum can enable a new generation of wireless entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa.
Get involved. Show support. Talk about this opportunity. Follow this event on Twitter today: #tvwsafrica